Gscene Magazine - December 2020 | WWW.GSCENE.COM

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Dec 2020


D T @gscene F GScene.Brighton

Publisher: Gscene Magazine CIC Editorial: E Advertising: E



Gscene magazine

Editorial team

Cover: Models: Billie Gold & Ebony Rose Dark Venue: Nautilus Lounge, Kemptown Photographers: Libertipix E f @libertipix d


Features 6 World Aids Day 2020

What’s happening online and offline for WAD on Tuesday, December 1

16 A Light in the Dark

One of our cover stars, Ebony Rose Dark, talks to Sam Harman

Simon Adams, Rachel Badham, Nick Boston, Brian Butler, Billie Gold, Craig Hanlon-Smith, Frances Hubbard, Laurie Lavender, Enzo Marra, Eric Page, Glenn Stevens, Netty Wendt, Roger Wheeler, Chris Gull, Jon Taylor, Alex Klineberg, Michael Steinhage, Jon Taylor, Gay Socrates

17 Picture This


We drop anchor with Steven Lee, fella at the helm of Nautilus Lounge

Jack Lynn, Chris Jepson, Simon Pepper, Nick Ford

We catch up with the ladies from Libertipix, who shot this month’s cover

18 Meet the Team

Pull up a chair and get acquainted with the team behind Gscene

22 Hello Sailor!

3 News

24 Leave It All Behind

42 46 47 47

Jaq Bayles goes on a journey of discovery for LGBTQ+ dream destinations

28 Spice Up YOUR Life

Alex Klineberg rounds up the best of next year's LGBTQ+ festivals All work appearing in Gscene Ltd is copyright. It is to be assumed that the copyright for material rests with the magazine unless otherwise stated on the page concerned. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in an electronic or other retrieval system, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior knowledge and consent of the publishers. The appearance of any person or any organisation in Gscene is not to be construed as an implication of the sexual orientation or political persuasion of such persons or organisations.


23 My Kinda Christmas

Dive into Geoff Stonebank’s world of baubles and tinsel

© Gscene 2020


Features Editor: Jaq Bayles Sub Editor/Design: Graham Robson Arts Editor: Alex Klineberg News team: Graham Robson, Eric Page, Samantha Harman, Rachel Badham, Paul Smith E


Page’s Pages Classical Notes Art Matters All That Jazz

30 Historical Holidays & Gay Getaways Regulars Alf Le Flohic looks back at queer icons who visited our queer streets to heal, hang loose or have a ball

Amazin LeThi speaks to Sam Harman about their defining life moments

32 Turn Back the Pages 48 Shopping 50 On the Box 50 Twisted Gilded Ghetto 51 MindOut 52 Wall’s Words 52 Gay Socrates 53 Craig’s Thoughts 54 Golden Hour 54 Stuff & Things 55 Rae’s Reflections 56 Hydes’ Hopes 56 Scene & Done It 57 Laurie’s Allotment

40 A Matter of Identity


34 A Safer Haven?

Peter Markham, a writer and correspondent for, tells us why LGBTQ+ asylum seekers are not being believed

35 (A)sex(ual) Education

Rachel Badham explores an area of sexuality that’s overlooked in education

36 HIV & Aids in Film and TV

Frances Hubbard, who volunteers with More to Me Than HIV, looks at the changing faces of HIV & Aids in Hollywood and British film and TV

38 Wear Your Mask with Pride

New Brighton & Hove City Council campaign captures the flair of Ebony Rose Dark, Tarik Elmoutawakil and Lola Lasagne

39 Amazing Amazin

Chris Jepson, photographer extraordinaire, talks to Jaq Bayles about his ongoing project and how it has forged connections within the community

44 ARXX and answered

This Brighton alt-rock gal pal duo has been attracting a lot of music industry attention of late

45 Literary Life, Cabaret & Lockdown Alex Klineberg catches up with cabaret performer Ian Elmslie

57 Classifieds 58 Services Directory 59 Advertisers’ Map


Gscene 4

The Ledward Centre, Brighton's first LGBTQ+ community centre, close to opening

and Chris says opinions are being sought through the survey on the prospect of “the cafeteria at least and possibly the whole thing to be pay what you want, or pay what you can”.


He continues: “This would mean virtually everything will have a suggested price, but you can either decide to pay forward and pay more, pay the suggested prices or, if you can’t afford it, pay what you can or pay nothing.” And he says that approach could work equally well if applied to “an art class or a yoga session or coming to a supper club to hear a talk on gay penguins”.

) Long awaited and highly anticipated, Brighton & Hove’s first LGBTQ+ community centre, named after Gscene founder and driving force of the project James Ledward, is on the brink of becoming a reality.

“We are now in the middle of November and the landlords told us nearly four months ago we could have the lease, then took another month and a half to tell us who their solicitors are,” says Chris. “But I’m a great believer that things will happen as they are meant to. There’s no stress – there’s a little frustration, but we’re using the time to put other things together.” Among those other things was the setting up of a Community Interest Company (CIC) and the lodging of an application for charitable status, which Chris says will take several months. In the meantime, the response to a call-out for volunteers has resulted so far in some 60 people getting on board across a range of skills, but Chris emphasises that anyone interested is welcome and information about how to apply – among many other

The next phase of the consultation is focus groups around issues such as ethnicity, gender identification, disability, autism & neuro-divergence, deaf & hard of hearing, blind & visually impaired etc, to determine exactly what the Centre needs to build into its infrastructure to make sure it is safe, comfortable and all-encompassing for every member of our communities.

“There are a lot of people who are not online, can’t or won’t get broadband and don’t have smart phones, so it’ll be very much about trying to get DAB radio to people who are isolated, and it will live stream on DAB radio as well as online – even things like a piano bar night, so you can hear someone playing the piano while you’re having your supper. People will be able to be involved even if they can’t come to the Centre.” To that end there is also a major push to get the survey out to those in the 35-40,000-strong LGBTQ community in Brighton & Hove who don’t have online access, with those who do being urged to print it out and pass it on, or help others to fill it out. The PDF can be downloaded ready to print at www. and sent to Freepost GSCENE. But in general terms, Chris says the “raison d’etre” for the Centre, which was prompted by recommendations from the 2006 Count Me In Too survey, was to provide a space for people to socialise without having to engage with pubs or bars, “so it was always intended to be a pop-up community cafeteria and meeting spaces”. While much of the detail around how the Centre will work has still to be determined, there are some givens, of which the ground-floor cafeteria is one. Chris anticipates it will take the form of a servery, much like those found in Ikea, “so we can accommodate supper clubs and lunch clubs”. The servery will be part of the FareShare scheme

Downstairs is likely be a central space with pods or units that can be used as meeting rooms or classrooms, with a “super-domestic kitchen” to cater for groups that like to meet up around creating a meal for themselves.



While the Community Consultation Survey ( is ongoing, Chris Gull, chair of the Brighton Rainbow Fund, which has facilitated and seed-funded the Centre, says much has already been achieved, although slightly frustrating is the fact that the lease has still not been signed.

Also anticipated for the ground floor is an information desk, a visitor centre, exhibition space and a bookshop, along with an LGBTQ+ community radio station. “We’ve managed to get DAB frequency so it’ll be a talk radio station but probably with a little bit of music – maybe a Desert Island Discs type of thing, and the equivalent of an Elaine Paige programme where someone will play show tunes for a couple of hours – but also lots of call-in programmes using Gscene content as the basis,” says Chris.


With a mission to “promote and support Brighton’s diverse LGBTQ+ community and vibrant culture by providing a safe and accessible space in the heart of the city”, The Ledward Centre – a light and modern 6,500sq ft space in Jubilee Square – has been welcoming community input to determine what people would most like to see from the project via a wide-reaching survey. Some of the initial responses are shared on page 4.

things – can be found on the new website, www.

“These are all ideas we are still consulting about, because we want to hear how that’s going to work in the real world with real people,” Chris concludes. D For more info, to get involved, and to complete the Community Consultation Survey, visit:

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The Ledward Centre Chris Gull, chair of the Brighton Rainbow Fund and facilitator of the new LGBTQ+ community centre, shares early responses to the LGBTQ+ Community Input Survey, which is an opportunity to share how you've been affected by Covid and have your say on the future of the centre

) The Community Input Survey also has information on how you can help get responses from those who are not online, and/or are unaware of The Ledward Centre and the survey. Some of what we can see from our responses so far (approx. 200 completed surveys).

And here are the extra suggestions from the respondents.

Loneliness: We asked people to choose from one of five options to describe their feeling of loneliness. We then asked what they would have answered before Covid. There was a significant drop in the percentage of those reporting ‘not at all lonely’ and ‘not so lonely’, and a consequential rise in those reporting ‘somewhat lonely’, ‘very lonely’ and ‘extremely We also asked which features people would like to see lonely’… In short, respondents on average felt more incorporated into the centre as a whole (as opposed lonely than before Covid. to events in the cafeteria, which is reported above), and again we made some suggestions, and asked for more. The options regarding alcohol were: ‘alcohol free’, ‘only beer, cider and wine with meals’ (purple on the graph), or ‘also before events’ (pink).

Perhaps, more importantly, you can really help by thinking about people you know who are probably unaware of this survey and encourage them to complete it. If they can't do that online, then please download and print the survey for them to complete, anonymously if they wish. The link to the survey form to be printed is The completed form can then be returned to Freepost GSCENE (just those two words). Thank you to Gscene for allowing use of its Freepost address. D Info on The Ledward Centre:

New bus carries tribute to James Ledward ) A bus named after the late editor of Gscene, James Ledward, has been launched. Arranged by his long-time friend and colleague Billie Lewis, and Brighton & Hove Buses, the number 1 service will travel through St James’s Street - the heart of LGBTQ+ Brighton.

Employment: A similar before and after question was asked about employment status, with the number in full-time employment dropping from 57% to 50%, those in part-time work rose 6% and those unemployed rose by 2%.

Martin Harris, managing director of Brighton & Hove Buses, said: “James’s contribution to Brighton's LGBTQ+ community was huge. He continuously lobbied the government so that the LGBTQ+ community got its fair share of money to fight HIV and Aids and then he gave that community a voice when he founded Gscene. We're proud to have his name on the front of one of our new buses.”

Financial security: Finally we asked how financially secure respondents felt, given a choice of 'no problems', 'doing well', 'barely managing' and 'not managing'. There was a slight increase in those mentioning that said they had 'no problems' and a slight increase in those saying that they were 'not managing', however the big difference came in the middle, with an 8.5% decrease in those saying they were 'doing well' and a 7.27% increase in those that said they were 'barely managing'.

Events in the Community Cafeteria: Here are our suggestions and what our respondents say they’d be interested in.

Some characteristics seem to be underrepresented in the responses so far, so we'd particularly like to hear more from you if you consider yourself to be LGBTQ+ and are: Older (55+), young (up to 25), QTIPoC, BAME, an asylum seeker, disabled, blind or visually impaired, deaf or hard of hearing, autistic or neurodivergent, a refugee, trans, non-binary, intersex, queer, bisexual, a parent, a family with children, homeless, housebound, isolated, have mental health issues, don't have access to the internet or a smart phone, or any other characteristic that you feel we need to hear about to make our planning and delivery truly inclusive.

Effects of Covid

A number of questions in the survey ask people to make suggestions of what they'd like to see us offer in the centre. We gave examples for them to tick (or not), and then the opportunity to make more suggestions.

We would now like to hear more from individuals within our LGBTQ+ communities, either by completing the survey online at survey, by taking part in focus groups, or by talking to us individually.

The survey, which will remain open indefinitely, is proving to be really helpful in our planning. We now have a clearer idea of how the physical space can be constructed to allow the centre to be an accessible, safe, comfortable and welcoming place for all the diverse LGBTQ+ communities in Brighton & Hove, and of the systems and policies that will further those ambitions.

Billie Lewis added: ""I was delighted to be able to work on this project with Brighton & Hove Buses from the beginning with James' wonderful sister Ros and his much loved husband Besi. James is still desperately missed within the community and knowing his bus is on the route that goes near the new Ledward Centre and through the LGBTQ+ village is very comforting. I did chuckle to myself hearing him shout out 'Do you want some onions to go with that mince?' every time the stop bell is pushed!""

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Keep Switchboard switched on!

) LGBT Switchboard is asking individuals and businesses for their support in keeping Switchboard Switched On by entering its festive raffle, which will help the charity to raise vital funds so it can continue to support the most vulnerable and isolated in our LGBTQ+ communities. Prizes include hotel stays, luxury food hampers, restaurant meals and more. The winners will be drawn at Switchboard’s Virtual Festive Soiree on Thursday, December 17, and everyone who enters the raffle will receive an invitation. As well as sharing the raffle with

its teams, Switchboard is asking businesses with money left over from their Christmas party budget to consider a donation. The charity is happy to provide impact updates to all businesses that donate, as well as complimentary training to significant donors. Switchboard said: “Throughout the pandemic we have seen demand for our services grow, and our work is needed now more than ever. On top of this, our biggest fundraising opportunity of the year, Brighton & Hove Pride, was not able to happen in the same way. This has had a huge impact on our finances as we are reliant on our fundraising income in order to provide our services.” D To enter the raffle: SwitchboardSwitchedOn D

‘Creative Christina’ raises over £350 for The Sussex Beacon! The Sussex Beacon said: “Christina values The Sussex Beacon because the work it does as a local charity helps her community. “By volunteering for us, Christina is helping her local community. She loves volunteering for The Beacon and is very fond of everyone who works and volunteers there as she describes The Beacon as a ‘big, dysfunctional family’.” ) Christina, a volunteer at The Sussex Beacon, has raised more than £350 for the charity by donating over 100 masks made during lockdown.

D For more info on volunteering: volunteer-with-us/

AT HOME SHOULDN’T MEAN AT RISK OF DOMESTIC ABUSE The ongoing pandemic measures can put pressure on your home environment and cause you increased anxiety if you are experiencing, or are at risk of, domestic abuse. You may not have as much contact with people who usually support you, and some of the places where you go for help or treatment may currently have a reduced service. You don’t have to live in fear – we’re here to listen without judgement, protect you from harm and support you to move forward with your life.

If you are in immediate danger, or suspect someone else is, call 999 If you are unable to talk when you call 999, listen to the operator and then either press 55 on a mobile, when prompted, or wait on a landline to be connected to the police, who will be able to help. Call 101 for non-emergencies Report online at If you are being abused, are concerned about family, friends or neighbours, or you are worried you may commit domestic abuse, please seek help, either from the police or our partner organisations. Safe Space Sussex provides an online directory of local victim and witness specialist support services as well as information about different types of crime and what happens at each stage of the criminal justice system, helping to ‘demystify’ the process for people when they may be at their most vulnerable.


Pics by Simon Pepper


World Aids Day - Tue, Dec 1

We’ve rounded up what’s going on in our city and online this World Aids Day (WAD). Make sure you wear your red ribbon with pride and dig deep if you can to support our community groups, choirs and charities; they need your support more than ever!

Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) ) In the face of the pandemic, THT has lots of exciting ways you can support its

work, get involved and raise much-needed funds. ) DRAG BINGO WITH CHARLIE HIDES: Gather

your family and housemates together, pour a glass of something refreshing, and let’s play bingo on WAD. RuPaul’s Drag Race star Charlie Hides will keep you entertained over Zoom and you could win some fabulous prizes. Starts at approx 7.25pm; bingo at 7.30pm. Don’t be late. For more info and to get your free bingo card, visit: ) WEAR. DONATE. NOMINATE: Simply wear your red ribbon this WAD, take a

picture of yourself and post on social media, donate to support THT and nominate your friends and family to do the same – it’s as easy as that. WEAR: Put on your red ribbon with pride. Don’t forget to take a photo or video and share on your social media. If you don’t have a ribbon, you could create one, or add a red ribbon frame to your profile picture on social media (you can find this by updating your picture, choosing ‘add frame’ and searching ‘red ribbon Terrence Higgins Trust’). DONATE: Visit and donate £5, £10 or £20 to support THT’s work and those affected by HIV. NOMINATE: Share the photo or video of you wearing the red ribbon and nominate people to do the same. Make sure to use the hashtag #WorldAIDSDay and tag in @THTorguk. More info: For a free red ribbon and tips & tricks on holding your own fundraiser for THT, visit:

Marking WAD 2020 in Brighton & Hove ) The city’s annual partnership main event for WAD, the vigil and reading of the

names, will be mainly online, although New Steine Gardens will be open. In a normal year, people would gather at Brighton & Hove Aids Memorial to mark the day and hear the reading of names of those who have lost their lives to the disease. This year, Lunch Positive will be serving hot drinks from a marquee in the gardens from 11am; stewards will make sure social distancing is adhered to and face coverings are worn, but the majority of the event will be broadcast through Facebook. The focus for 2020 is on frontline staff in the HIV sector and how they have responded over the past six months and adapted a lot of services to online. Throughout the day there will be regular uploads of 90-second videos of people, including Sussex Beacon nurses, local MPs, volunteers and others, talking about how their HIV work and personal lives have been affected by the pandemic. At 6pm there will be a live reading of the names, which will remain online for a couple of hours. Join in online on the day at: www.facebook. com/worldAIDSdayBH Brighton & Hove World AIDS Day Community Partnership has announced the following events to mark WAD on or around Tuesday, December 1.

) Brighton AIDS Memorial Candlelight Vigil: Tuesday, December 1 @ 6pm, Due to the current situation and restrictions with Covid 19, this year the WAD names reading and vigil will be held online and not as a physical event at the memorial.

The online event will be hosted on the Partnership’s Facebook page World AIDS Day – Brighton & Hove at on Tuesday, December 1. Short speeches by frontline workers, volunteers and local HIV organisations will be available to view throughout the day. The names reading and vigil will take place as a Facebook Live event at the usual time of 6pm. New Steine Gardens will still be open throughout the day on Tuesday, December 1 so members of the community can visit the Brighton & Hove Aids Memorial and pay their respects to loved ones. Stewards will be present to ensure adherence to Covid-19 guidelines and to signpost people to emotional support if required. For more info, contact Phillip Wragg at THT South on 07552 755161. New names to be read (in addition to those read in previous years) can be emailed to by Friday, November 27. ) Positive Space at Dorset Gardens Methodist Church (ground floor),

Brighton, BN2 1RL on Sunday, November 29, pop in between 12.30 - 3pm. The Sussex HIV Chaplaincy invites you to drop in and reflect on what WAD means to you. An opportunity to light a candle of remembrance, to spend some time in personal prayer or reflection, or to talk with the HIV chaplain in a welcoming and supportive atmosphere, for those with some faith or none, ALL are welcome. For more info, contact Revd Heather Leake Date: 07867 773360 or ) Lunch Club members, friends and supporters of people with HIV are invited

to a community WAD Sunday Lunch with Lunch Positive @ Dorset Gardens Methodist Church (1st & 2nd floors), Dorset Gardens, Brighton, BN2 1RL on Sunday, November 29 from 1pm with lunch served from 1.30pm. Invitations will be sent out in advance or people can enquire about a place by contacting or call 07846 464384. ) Tuesday, December 1: WAD Lunch & Community Drop-In with Lunch

Positive @ Dorset Gardens Methodist Church (1st floor), Dorset Gardens, Brighton BN2 1RL. Open to anyone, Lunch Positive will open 12 - 3pm for light snacks and refreshments in a café-style setting. There's no charge, but donations welcome. This is an open event, though numbers may be limited as part of a Covid-secure setting. For info: or call 07846 464384 ) More to me than HIV – online at An online

exhibition of self portraits, celebrating the diversity of people living with HIV, championing the fact that HIV does not define us, and that we can live as normal a life as anybody else. The Brighton & Hove World Aids Day Partnership comprises: Avert, BHCC Partnership Community Safety Team, Frontline AIDS, the HIV and SHAC (Sexual Health and Contraception) teams, the LGBT Safety Forum, Lunch Positive, More to Me Than HIV, Peer Action, The Rainbow Hub, The Sussex Beacon, Sussex Ecumenical HIV Chaplaincy and THT South.


Accessing PrEP in Brighton & Hove Stephen Nicholson, the Brighton & Hove commissioner for sexual health, Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust Sexual Health & Contraception team (SHAC) and Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) are working together to increase PrEP awareness and accessibility across the city.

#DoTheTimeWarp for the Sussex Beacon!

have sex with men, but can also be provided for: trans, non-binary and gender diverse groups; people including women who get paid for sex; people who identify as BAME and are concerned about their HIV risk.” Stephen Nicholson, the Brighton & Hove commissioner for sexual health, SHAC and THT are working together to increase PrEP awareness and accessibility across the city.

) PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a pill you take before and after sex that greatly reduces the risk of getting HIV (it’s almost 100% effective when taken as prescribed). Once the PrEP drug is in the body, it blocks the HIV virus from causing an infection.

According to Public Health England there was an 18% drop in new diagnoses among gay and bisexual men, with heterosexuals lagging behind with a 6% fall. This is largely attributed to the knowledge and take-up of PrEP and fast initiation of treatment after diagnosis, which stops HIV from being passed on.

It can either be taken as a daily tablet (for people having vaginal and anal sex) or on demand (over three days before and after sex for people having anal sex). Although PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV, it won’t protect you from other STIs. This is why it’s important to go for regular STI screenings every three months.

SHAC and THT are currently working with Emerge M-Health and the University of Brighton on designing a mobile phone app to support patients using PREP to ensure ready availability and access to STI testing and monitoring.

Dr Daniel Richardson, consultant and clinical reader in sexual health & HIV medicine, SHAC and Brighton & Sussex Medical School, said: “People who are interested in starting PrEP or want advice on PrEP can contact the SHAC team at www.brightonsexualhealth. com. Gay and bisexual male patients are mainly being started on PrEP at clinic M on Wednesday evenings. However, PrEP is not just for men who

Brighton is a registered HIV Fast Track City committed to achieving zero new HIV infections and zero Aids-related deaths by 2030. Raising awareness and availability of PrEP throughout the region will undoubtedly help to achieve this goal.



Until October this year PrEP was only available as part of clinical trials such as IMPACT or by purchasing the medication from online pharmacies. However, after years of campaigning by community organisations and activists, PrEP is now available free through the NHS to those at risk of contracting HIV.

Marc Tweed, centre manager at THT Brighton, said: “This is great news for the communities most affected by HIV in Brighton and an important milestone in the course of the HIV epidemic in the UK. PrEP can help us make a big step towards ending new HIV transmissions by 2030.” D For more info on THT, visit: D For more info on SHAC, visit:

) The Sussex Beacon, the charity specialising in care and support for people living with HIV in East and West Sussex, has announced the launch of #DoTheTimeWarp, a chance to bust out your best (or worst!) moves to raise vital funds for the charity’s nursing team. As this year’s Halloween Horror Show, which last year raised £30,000 towards the services the charity provides for people living with HIV in Sussex, can’t go ahead due to coronavirus, this is your chance to “put your hands on your hips” and support the work of the Beacon in the process. To support the charity, text BEACON to 70660 to donate £3. To get involved, simply upload your dance entry to social media and share with your friends using #DoTheTimeWarp – costumes optional! You’ll be automatically entered into a draw for a £200 Amazon voucher (don’t forget to make your video public so the charity can see it) – closing date is Friday, January 15, 2021 with a random draw. The Sussex Beacon says: “Unfortunately this year we have been unable to run [The Halloween Horror Show] due to the current guidelines, but we still want you to have the fun of the show, so we are asking you to dance and donate for the Sussex Beacon.” D To donate, visit: TimeWarp4SussexBeacon D For more info on the Sussex Beacon, visit: www.

Unisex Hairsalon 18 St Georges Road, Kemptown, Brighton BN2 1EB

01273 623 408




Older life care for LGBTQ+ communities gets national attention New schemes hopefully herald a new dawn for the way LGBTQ+ people can spend their later years

Further, 50% were uncomfortable being out to care home staff, 33% to a housing provider, and 20% to a GP. A 2019 UK government report found evidence of LGBTQ+ communities facing numerous barriers when accessing services, and that people can encounter discrimination, inappropriate questions and curiosity. These barriers can prevent people receiving fair and equal treatment in health and social care settings. All too aware of these issues, Olly Carter has started LGBTQ-friendly care service Kingsway Care in Hove, operating across Sussex.

) In October, Manchester City Council put out to tender a scheme to build the UK’s first “LGBTaffirmative extra-care scheme” in Whalley Range, south Manchester, with an 18-member LGBTQ+ steering group helping to develop it and 150 places being allocated to LGBTQ+ people aged over 55 and in need of extra physical or mental support.

“We know from YouGov polling of 1,036 older lesbian, gay and bisexual people and 1,050 heterosexual older people, commissioned by Stonewall, that a significant proportion of older gay people are likely to live alone, have limited family support and rely on formal services for help in the future.

Such a scheme has been a long time coming and hopefully it heralds a new dawn for the way LGBTQ+ people can spend their later years, as there is no shortage of evidence that many are currently fearful of having to go into a care home.

“This ground breaking research, Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People in Later Life, demonstrates that many older gay people have experienced, or fear, discrimination because of their sexual orientation and they say this creates a barrier to receiving appropriate care and treatment.”

In 2015 Stonewall released its report Working With Older Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people – a guide for care and support services, which states: “For the one million lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Britain over the age of 55 growing old is a real concern.

One of the main findings was that many older gay people were worried about “having to hide their sexual orientation, about having to move into a care home that is designed for heterosexual people and about a lack of opportunity to socialise with other older gay people”.

“When I first lived in Brighton, as a young gay man, I semi-joked about opening up a gay care home on the seafront where we could all grow old disgracefully,” he says. “Maybe one day that ambition will come true, but it looks like Manchester will be the first UK city to achieve that dream. This is great news. We all agree that there is a need for greater residential provision that caters for LGBTQ+ communities. “However, increasingly many of us choose to remain in our own homes as we grow older. This raises other issues that need to be considered. Some of us might like a helping hand with practical tasks around the home such as support with housework, gardening, pet care, repairs and maintenance, grooming and beauty, home technology and more. Others may be seeking sympathetic companionship: a friendly person with whom to go out for a drink or a meal; or help with a trip to the shops or garden centre. The experience of going to the cinema, theatre or to a sports match can be improved by having someone to discuss it with. “Some may want help organising transport, outings or holidays, whereas others might like to connect with someone who would visit them at home, maybe to play cards, discuss books or cook a meal together.” And Olly is determined to offer as much community help as possible, with free online Christmas events – a show and party hosted by Dolly Rocket and an alternative Queen's speech from Drag With No Name – planned, along with volunteering and fundraising initiatives. “We plan to launch an online befriending scheme to match DBS-checked volunteers with older people,” he says. “We're also planning to host some online Christmas parties, featuring festive music, games, competitions as the next best thing to the real lunch, dinner or party that may not be possible this year.” D To join in the free Christmas fun head to, where pantomimes, a show and a party will all be taking place, culminating in a Carol Concert on Christmas Eve.



Last orders at much-loved LGBTQ+ bar

Stuff your stockings and raise funds for Brighton Rainbow Fund with Brighton Bear Weekend merch ) As we come towards the end of a year that most of us would rather forget, there are still some things that can bring a smile to our faces. Christmas is just around the corner and the delightful team at Brighton Bear Weekend (BBW) have some great ideas for things to slip into your loved one’s sack (or your own, for that matter!). All funds (after costs) will be donated to the Brighton Rainbow Fund, which provides grants to local LGBTQ+ community groups and HIV/Aids charities, to support frontline services.

) Bar Broadyway, the popular

venue which has been bringing glitz and glamour to the heart of LGBTQ+ Brighton since 2014, has closed its doors for the last time. The musicals-themed venue, which was run by Alasdair Kelly Jarrie and Michael McGarrigle, hosted karaoke nights, quizzes, Eurovision parties and top-flight cabaret. Brighton & Hove Sea Serpents LGBTQ+ rugby team, which was sponsored by the bar, said on Instagram: “We’re very saddened to

hear that the amazing Bar Broadway has closed its doors for the final time. “We’ve been honoured to have them as our shirt sponsor for the past two years and they’ve been wonderfully supportive. “We’d like to particularly thank Alasdair and Michael for their support over the years. It’s a terrible loss to the LGBT+ community here in Brighton & Hove and it was a unique venue that we will cherish memories of forever.” Gscene has reached out to the owners for comment.

Have Your Say on sports facilities in the city facilities have always been an important part of life in our city, and the current Covid-19 crisis has placed even more emphasis on the need to stay healthy.

) Brighton & Hove City Council is asking locals to contribute to a plan to improve and develop BHCC sports facilities across the city. The Sports Facilities Investment Plan aims to provide good quality, accessible, sustainable facilities and services, which it’s hoped will encourage increased participation in sport and physical activity and improve the health and wellbeing of residents across the city. Cllr Marianna Ebel, chair of the Tourism, Equalities, Community & Culture Committee, said: “Sports

“We want to ensure that residents can access the sports facilities they need to stay fit, healthy and to enjoy social interaction with others.” She added that the council will also be consulting with the organisers or committees of sports clubs/physical activity groups in the city. The consultation runs until January 17, 2021, and findings will be presented to the council’s Tourism, Equalities, Community & Culture Committee and used to help inform the Sport & Physical Activity Strategy. D To take part, visit: www. sportconsultation

Just in time for Christmas, a brand new arrival at the BBW Shop is a sturdy Stainless Steel Articulated Keyring, which everyone will love. Bearing (see what we did there?) a BBW logo on its chest, this cheeky little chappy will not only keep your keys company but you can also hang it from your jeans as a fashion accessory. It’s an absolute bargain at just £2.99, and you can order up to five keyrings for a single P&P charge. Another gift idea is a BBW 10th Anniversary cotton T-shirt, designed by the fabulous Bobo Bear and likely to become a real collector’s item. Coming in six sizes, ranging from small to 3XXL, and excellent value at £20. It looks like we’ll be wearing face coverings for quite a while, so how about doing it in style with an exclusive BBW Face Covering? It’s made from double layered tear-proof fabric, with an integrated pocket to insert a filter, elasticated fastenings and a contoured shape for the most comfortable fit possible. The extra room even allows for bears’ beards! It is reusable, machine washable and reasonably priced at £10.

Name that Bear! That’s not all though. The team have said their new articulated keyring needs a name (you can’t have a bear with no name), so purchase any BBW item by Tuesday, December 15 and you have the chance to win a BBW Gift Pack containing a T-shirt, face covering and an additional keyring. Let BBW know what you want to call the bear and if you would like to participate in the draw. The most creative, original name as chosen by the BBW committee by Friday, December 18 will scoop the prize, worth more than £30! Good luck and happy shopping! D To shop, visit:

BBW is to return to Brighton from Thursday, June 17 to Sunday, June 20, 2021. D For more info on BBW, visit D For more info on the Brighton Rainbow Fund:




Galop launches new guide on delivering services for LGBTQ+ survivors of domestic abuse

OBITUARY: Ian Allsup-Burge: 21/06/1970 - 26/10/2020 ) Ian Allsup-Burge passed away on October 26 at Royal Sussex Hospital from pneumonia with complications.

Speaking to Gscene, Flynn said: “I have been overwhelmed by the amount of love people have for him and the effect his death has had on the community.

“Friends, strangers and prominent drag queens alike have personally messaged me to tell me how generous, supportive and selfless he was and how saddened they were at his passing.” He added: “Ian meant so much to so many people, I will remember him for his dad dancing, his exuberance and non-judgemental attitude. He made so many newcomers to the scene feel welcome and if he valued you, you’d know about it.”

The funeral service was held on November 11 at Brighton Crematorium after a hearse drive-by outside Marine Tavern on Broad Street.


Ian and Flynn were married in 2016 following a proposal at Poison Ivy on St James’s Street where the couple met a year previously.

As a tribute to Ian’s memory, Flynn has been raising money through Just Giving for the Alzheimer’s Society, which has so far exceeded its £500 target and currently stands at £900. D To donate, visit

LGBTQ+ bar owners to donate Christmas gifts to families

) Brighton LGBTQ+ bar owners Lee Cockshott and Simon Ebers are embracing the true Christmas spirit this year by donating £500 worth of genderneutral Christmas gifts to families in need. The duo are also donating Christmas Sunday Roasts at one of their three venues for 30 lucky families.

) Galop, the UK’s LGBT+ antiviolence charity, has launched a new guide, Commissioning for Inclusion: Delivering Services for LGBT+ Survivors of Domestic Abuse, to encourage and support commissioners, services, policymakers, and the government to work in partnership to better meet the needs of LGBTQ+ survivors of domestic abuse. Galop is calling on the government, commissioners, and services to reflect on how they can work together to better meet the needs of LGBTQ+ domestic abuse survivors. The charity hopes that this guidance can be used to facilitate a dialogue at a local, regional, and national level about the ways to build, develop and sustain domestic abuse support tailored to the needs of LGBTQ+ people. Leni Morris, CEO of Galop, said: “At Galop, we see the effects of domestic abuse on LGBTQ+ survivors


“Our ambition is that this guidance will initiate and inform much-needed discussions at national, regional, and local levels, about the nuanced and tailored ways to build, develop and sustain LGBTQ+ specific domestic abuse provision” D To see the guide, visit: https:// D

He said: “From the start I told mental health professionals that it was significant trauma that led me to drinking. However, due to the way services are set up they said I must quit drinking first before I could be referred to mental health community services.

“The presents aren’t just for LGBTQ+ families, but for anyone who is struggling.”

) Sam Thomas, a writer, campaigner and recovering alcoholic from Brighton, has launched a petition - #SeeTheBiggerPicture - calling on the UK government to improve the way those with both mental health and substance use issues are assessed for treatment.

From Thursday, December 3, parents in need are invited to visit either Marine Tavern, 13 Broad St, Kemptown BN2 1TJ, or Le Village, 2-3 High St, Kemptown BN2 1RP between 11am–1pm to collect one free gender-neutral Christmas gift per child. The first 15 to be seen at either venue will also receive a voucher entitling a family of up to five to a free Christmas Sunday Roast.

Sam hopes his petition will shine a spotlight on issues people face with dual diagnosis with a view to alleviate the barriers to integrated treatment and improve service provision.

Simon said: “We understand this is an especially difficult time for families and we wanted to give something back to the local community.

“The role of and need for specialist domestic abuse services, run by and for LGBTQ+ people, must be recognised and it is vital that the development and sustainability of such services are supported.

Sam Thomas launches #SeeTheBiggerPicture petition

Lee was moved and inspired by his friend Claire Fuller’s Facebook post, which read: “Before you start bragging that you’ve done your Xmas shopping, please remember some parents have lost their jobs and don’t know how they’re going to feed their kids, never mind buy presents. Some parents are on 80% pay and only just managing to pay bills…” Lee owns Marine Tavern on Broad Street, Simon owns The Regency Tavern on Russell Square, and the pair co-own Le Village just off St James’s Street.



Since his passing, his husband, Flynn AllsupBurge, AKA drag queen Linda Bacardi, has been inundated with messages of love and support from our community.

every day. We know that LGBTQ+ people experience significant levels of domestic abuse, but face distinct systemic and personal barriers in accessing help and support. This is why specialist services are so important in breaking down some of those barriers, and enabling victims and survivors to come forward and access the help that they need and deserve.

“They say when you have both a mental health and substance use problem it’s a case of the ‘chicken and egg.’ In reality the trauma leads to the drinking and the drinking compounds the trauma. For many like me having a dual diagnosis is a catch 22 – even more so when you risk serious and potentially deadly withdrawal symptoms.” To sign the petition, visit: https://


17 Gscene 17 11

English government axes anti-bullying project designed to protect LGBTQ+ students


issues of diversity and inclusion, away from harmful stereotypes that are so often perpetuated by media representations of minoritised communities.

) It was announced last month that the English government has axed an anti-bullying project, The Homophobic, Biphobic & Transphobic Challenge Fund, which was designed to protect LGBTQ+ school students. It was not compulsory for schools to participate, but it allowed staff and students to take part in free training and workshops and was well received across the country. According to BBC, the government had been funding the project since 2014 and spent over £4m on various programmes.

this government’s wafer-thin commitment to equality for LGBTQ+ children, families, and workers.

Although the anti-bullying project has been axed, the 2020-2021 academic year is the first in which LGBTQ+ inclusive curricula has become compulsory, with schools which don’t teach LGBTQ+ topics being marked down by Ofsted. Schools will also be expected to provide more support networks for LGBTQ+ students.

“This is especially cruel during lockdown, when we know that children and young people’s mental health is already being affected and that LGBTQ+ children are much more likely to experience poor mental health due to bullying at school.

Nell Andrew, GMB national equality & inclusion officer, said: “This decision is yet another example of

“In a heteronormative society in which heterosexuality is normalised, many young lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer people still experience oppression, discrimination and hatred in the institutions which should provide a safe place for them to learn and develop. Similarly, for young trans people, who have become the focal point of much online ‘debate’ around transgender rights and trans people’s access to social life, they experience restrictive oppression in a society which relies so heavily on a gender binary.

“Announcing it during Trans Awareness Week and when hate crimes against LGBTQ+ are rising shows callous insensitivity.

“Without adequate funding to directly address issues of oppression, discrimination and social injustices, it becomes difficult to see how schools can adequately meet the aims that the Department for Education so clearly previously set out. Without the necessary resources and expertise to challenge homophobic, biphobic and transphobic stereotypes and attitudes, we risk children and young people leaving education unprepared for adult life in an ever-increasing diverse world.”


“This time last year this government was running in an election on a manifesto with a commitment to ‘continue to tackle all forms of bullying in our schools’. We now know that promise was another blatant lie.

“GMB calls on ministers to act fast and reverse this entirely reprehensible and unjust decision now.” Dr Ben Colliver, researcher of hate crime and gender at Birmingham City University’s School of Social Sciences, said: “In a society which relies so heavily on neatly categorising people based on their identity, educational institutions may be the only place where children and young people are introduced to


GMB Union has said the announcement, which took place during Trans Awareness Week, shows ‘callous insensitivity’. GMB criticised the move, which comes despite an earlier pledge to continue investing in school programmes targeting homophobic, biphobia and transphobic bullying.

“Mainstream curricula often lack in representing diverse populations, and defunding such targeted interventions and programmes is likely to have a detrimental effect on the mental health and wellbeing of young LGBTQ people.

Highlighting the prevalence of bullying in schools, Nancy Kelley, Stonewall’s chief executive, added: “Our latest School Report revealed that nearly half of LGBTQ+ pupils are still bullied for being themselves. When bullying is not tackled it can have a deeply damaging and long-lasting effect on young people. We know LGBTQ+ people are disproportionately affected by poor mental health, and some of this is because of the way they were treated at school.” D To read Stonewall’s School Report, visit:




) Writing Our Legacy, in association with New Writing South, has announced the launch of the first edition of Covert – a literary magazine showcasing the talent of Black, Asian and ethnically diverse writers and artists.


The magazine primarily showcases original writing and art by people from or with links to Sussex. The theme for the inaugural edition is Sussex Fortuneteller: What Do Writers See in the Future? Fifteen writers and six artists have been selected to feature in the magazine. Guest Editors Dean Atta and Umi Sinha, who supported the magazine editorial team, have provided mentoring and editorial direction for the development of their work.

Allsorts of Wellbeing podcast can all do for our mental wellbeing. Jo Ansell, LGBT+ youth support worker and lead on Allsorts of Thoughts, said: “I’ve had the privilege ) The young people at LGBTU+ of working behind the scenes to make youth charity, Allsorts Youth Project, this episode happen. The superb young have released the latest episode of people have put hours of time, thought Allsorts of Thoughts – a podcast and effort into making this episode made by and for LGBTU+ young and have been dedicated and truly people. inspiring.” The latest episode, Allsorts of Wellbeing, is a gathering of ideas, tips and information about how to embrace the practical things that we

Rainbow Chorus’ exciting Xmas plans The shows will be crammed with musical stocking fillers – from chorus classics and brand new songs to singalong festive faves.

Covert launches on Saturday, December 5 at Writing Our Legacy’s end of season online celebration event, which will feature live music and readings from writers and artists of colour. D To purchase a digital or physical copy from December 5, visit: www.

New wall art with a punk twist on St James’s Street

D To listen to the podcast, visit: D For more info on Allsorts, visit:

pic cap

Covert: a new literary magazine showcasing Black, Asian and ethnically diverse writers and artists

) The Rainbow Chorus, Brighton & Hove’s LGBTQ+ inclusive choir, has announced a two-for-one Christmas concert, Stocking Up (Just in Case…!) for Christmas, to take place online on Saturday, December 12.

The Rainbow Chorus says: “Join us for brunch as we help you get into the Christmas spirit earlier in the day before we return in the evening for more Rainbow Chorus festive fare. Our famous hamper raffle is of course back again this year.” f For more info on tickets etc, keep checking The Rainbow Chorus Facebook page: RainbowChorus

THT launches HIV remembrance hub ones lost to the HIV epidemic are remembered this year.

) Brand new wall art of Freddie Mercury has been posted up in pride of place in St James’s Street on the wall of the Sussex Beacon shop by international pasting art sensations The Postman Art. The group has replaced the previous artwork with a new colourful version, complete with Red Ribbon for World Aids Day (WAD), and has also replaced two images on Prowler’s shopfront, which had suffered vandalism, with images of trans non-binary performers Amanda Lepore and Honey Dijon. The Postman Art, known for their iconic images of rebels served with a punk twist, said: “Our works aim to cheer up the public during these strange times. We aim to celebrate LGBTQ+ culture in an impactful, yet respectful, culturally aware manner. “St James’s Street now sports two trans and nonbinary activists and performers, Amanda Lepore and Honey Dijon for Prowler and Freddie for the Beacon Shop, in honour of Trans Week of Visibility and WAD. Check ’em out and grab a picture of yourself with Freddie, and share on social media.” D Check out and buy their work by visiting i

Ian Green, THT chief executive, said: “Despite the coronavirus restrictions, we knew we had to find a way to bring people together to remember lost loved ones.” ) Ahead of this World Aids Day on Tuesday, December 1, HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) launched an online platform to make sure loved

D To leave a message, visit: worldaidsday/ D More info on THT:

Queer in Brighton LGBTQ+ History Club Burns MBE will be talking about her experience and work on trans history.

) Queer in Brighton LGBTQ+ History Club returns for an evening of stories, talks and local history on Sunday, December 13 from 6pm. Campaigner and writer Christine

In the second part of the evening, The Clare Project will take you on a journey through the last 20 years, sharing a snapshot of its past, present and future. The event is totally FREE but booking required: QueerinBrighton


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Domestic abuse remains a priority for Sussex Police at this crucial time


Detective chief superintendent Steve Rayland of Sussex Police, head of public protection and force lead for domestic abuse ) Domestic abuse happens somewhere every day of the year and can often leave people feeling alone, trapped or silenced, especially as we continue to have reduced contact with others and spend more time at home. Lockdown and ongoing restrictions haven’t changed our focus on domestic abuse – it is still a priority and if you are suffering from domestic abuse we urge you to call us or speak to an officer. We know that these ongoing periods of isolation have been particularly tough, with a lack of space, increased family tensions and possible financial pressures. For those living with an abusive partner or family member, it has meant even less opportunity to break away or reach out for help and support. No matter what is going on around us there is no excuse for domestic abuse and no one should have to suffer in silence. We are here to help put an end to violence and other forms of domestic abuse. Recent victim surveys show that there is under-

reporting of domestic abuse from the LGBTQ+ community and we are keen to reach out to the community to protect and support those who may be in danger. Domestic abuse is often subtle in its nature. Many victims may not even recognise abusive behaviours. Often abusers will use emotional manipulation and intimidation to shame or terrorise victims into compliance. Psychological harm is often every bit as corrosive to a victim’s wellbeing as physical abuse. Reporting domestic abuse can be incredibly difficult for so many reasons, and we understand the complexities that make it difficult to come forward. It takes a huge amount of courage to make that call, but you are not alone – our extensively trained staff and officers are here to keep you safe. Victims can contact the police via the website, 101 or 999 in an emergency. During the initial contact we will discuss the victim’s circumstances with them, risk-assess the situation and either attend the home address, or for lower-risk incidents ask victims to either come to a police station, or meet us online for a video appointment. The video appointment system

is simple to use, completely secure and extremely difficult to detect by perpetrators. There have never been more ways for victims and police to engage with one another. When victims meet us, we discuss a range of options to support them to remove the harm that abusers inflict. As well as tools within criminal and civil law to stop the abuse, we can help victims access a range of local support services and charities that specialise in domestic abuse to help them to move forward with their lives. We have received very positive feedback from victims after their contact with us, sharing that they felt listened to, taken seriously, and had a clear plan of how we would support them moving forward. We want LGBTQ+ victims to know that if you are in a relationship where physical and psychological abuse may be happening, if you are feeling isolated, intimidated or manipulated by your partner, we are here for you 24/7 – we will listen to you, we will take your situation seriously and we will leave you safer than before you called us. ) To report domestic abuse, call 101 or 999 in an emergency or visit: report/domestic-abuse/report-domestic-abuse/

Reimagining care for the LGBTQ+ community

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Christmas Show (sit back and relax): Monday 14th December, 2pm Christmas Party (log on and interact): Thursday 17th December, 7pm Music, games, special guests, laughter & prizes!

1x Fortnum & Mason Hamper 10x Kingsway Care Christmas Bubbly 24x Kingsway Care Christmas Quality Street Tubs

Kingsway Care supports LGBTQ+ communities across Sussex, offering a range of high-quality services to enable independent living at home.

Tel: 01273 077444

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14 Gscene

Trans Day of Remembrance was last month but we won't rest for victims of transphobia


TDoR marked in the city ) The Clare Project, the trans support and social group, and QTIPoC Narratives, the Brighton-based QTIPoC community collective, organised a Digital Vigil for Trans Day of Remembrance (TDoR) on Friday, November 20 to memorialise those who have died due to anti-trans hatred or prejudice. Although not every person represented during TDoR self-identified as transgender, each was a victim of violence based on bias against the community. TDoR raises public awareness of hate crimes against trans people and mourns and honours the lives of trans people who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, our communities expressed love and respect in the face of national indifference and hatred. TDoR gives trans people and their allies a chance to step forward and stand in vigil. D More info on The Clare Project, visit: f More info on QTIPoC Narratives, follow @qtipocnarratives

OBITUARY: Jan Morris: 02/10/1926 - 20/11/2020 ) Jan Morris was the only journalist to accompany Edmund Hillary on his ascent of Mount Everest in 1953. Then still James Morris, she was 26 years old. She sent a now famous telegram: “Snow conditions bad. Advance base abandoned yesterday. Awaiting improvement. All Well!” There was more to the dispatch than met the eye. She was using coded language to confirm that he had successfully reached the summit. The Times broke the story on the day of The Queen’s coronation. The ascent of Mount Everest was considered to be a last hurrah for the fading British Empire, but it was just the beginning for Jan Morris. In 1956, she broke the news that France had been collaborating with Israel to invade Egypt in the Suez Crisis. In 1972, she became one of the first high-profile figures to have gender reassignment surgery. She wrote about her experiences two years later in Conundrum, a groundbreaking account of the transgender experience. Elizabeth Tuckniss, Jan Morris’ wife, remained faithful to her, even though they legally had to divorce after the gender reassignment surgery. Jan Morris died at her home in Wales on Trans Day of Remembrance at the age of 94. She lived a life of extraordinary richness and diversity. She wrote 40 books, raised four children and travelled extensively. Her literary reputation was sealed by her travel books, especially her lyrical descriptions of Venice and Trieste. She also wrote a sprawling history of the British Empire. By the time The Guardian met her for a final interview this year, she could scarcely believe she had written so much as she flicked through her exhaustive notes for her history books. She knew she was at the end of her incredible journey and she was in a pensive mood. She didn’t consider her gender transition to be a transition, as such. More an absorbing of one sex into the other. Her travel writing, her gender and later her Welsh nationalism all seemed to be connected. She considered her extensive travels to be linked to her exploration of her own identity. Her romantic attachment to Wales was reflected in the evocative accounts she wrote of cities like Venice. She had an intuitive understanding of place and history that elevated her writing. She lived the life of an artist and ultimately a life of great fulfilment. We can all learn an awful lot about how to live well from reading Jan Morris.

Rainbow Chorus sends message of solidarity to mark TDoR

) As an inclusive LGBTQ+ community choir, the Rainbow Chorus would usually take part in a Trans Day of Remembrance (TDoR) observance event to help raise the visibility of trans people and address issues members of the community face. As the choir was unable to join in physical union for TDoR and stand in solidarity with the trans community, they came together online to produce a stirring video dedicated to trans lives lost. The video itself is an act of remembrance as it has a list of all the

names of the people reported to have been murdered by anti-trans violence in the past 12 months. At the time of writing, this stands at more than 350 people. The Rainbow Chorus said: “Hate crime is everyone’s issue; we remain committed to continued awareness raising, advocacy and utilising our voice to celebrate the diversity within our community.” D To see the video: https://youtu. be/myvxl_aOb44 D


16 Gscene

A Light in the Dark Sam Harman catches up with Ebony Rose Dark (they/them) – the international cabaret artist who is a beacon for others with disabilities ) Ebony Rose Dark is the only visually

impaired drag artist on the scene. They have performed at venues across the UK and abroad and are known for speaking openly about the need for more inclusivity for LGBTQ+ disabled people, from within and outside the community. The artist has their own acronym, referring to themself as a VIP – visually impaired person – but also holding on to its original meaning, very important person. They encouraged others to adopt this positive stance about themselves too when they were seen spreading peace, love and unity on the cabaret stage at London Pride 2019, while enveloped in a rainbow flag. Ebony has only just moved to Brighton and spoke to Gscene about what inspires them, in between dealing with errant removals men. (We do hope you dealt with that pesky wardrobe…)

Ebony became a performer in 2012, having been inspired by the film Sister Act (part one), revealing: “I was quite envious when I watched Sister Act, the opening scene. I just thought wow! What would it be like to perform in a place like that?” But it was watching Kinky Boots, the movie, that spurred Ebony on to actually make the dream a reality. One of their dance teachers at the time, from the queer tango scene, took them along to watch a performance at the actual venue featured in the film. “I thought, I really want to give this a go and I wonder if it’s possible.” And possible it was. Things happened very quickly following on from that, when another friend, who was performing at Royal Vauxhall Tavern, invited Ebony along to watch but then put them forward to perform. A few weeks later saw Ebony belting out Nina Simone on stage at Bar Wotever, Queer Tuesday – and the rest is history. It’s hard to imagine this vibrant, gregarious person ever having any hardship in their life, but certainly there has been a fair share of suffering. Ebony’s childhood and schooling were disrupted by disability, hospitalisation for invasive surgery and also having to endure radiotherapy. The problems with vision started at the age of just five. “I developed a brain tumour on my optic nerve, I was in and out of hospital and eventually left with only partial sight. I’m heavily reliant on light. If all colours blend into one that’s the worst-case scenario for me. For example, an old mahogany room is really bad. Due to the radiotherapy I had, I also have other health complications I have to deal with.” The performer evidently hasn’t let this hold them back. If anything, the disability has acted as a spur and Ebony now uses their platform to inspire others while simultaneously working to bring other LGBTQ+

people with disabilities out on to the scene. “When I started in 2012, I didn’t know of any other visually impaired cabaret performers and, more importantly, no other visually impaired people who were attending LGBTQ+ events – I only know of one other disabled person who is actively out going to performances and I wonder, where is everyone else? My hope is that more people feel comfortable going out, especially from the LGBTQ+ community, because I know they’re out there. Slowly more of them are coming out.” But they admitted: “Prejudices against LGBTQ+ people exist even within disabled communities – people will be excluded from groups for being gay, bi or trans. I like to end my show with some LGBTQ+ news, to remind people of important issues happening within our community. I use my platform to educate and bring about change as well as entertain.” Are there any downsides to performing as a disabled person? As you might expect, access needs can be problematic. “Sometimes not knowing what you’re walking into, sometimes there isn’t always the time to ask for a friend to join and assist so it’s a case of trusting the community for support and making it safe to attend. I won’t want to become a hindrance on the night, so I might not always ask for help and as a disabled person it’s unspoken that people won’t tell you if they have issues with you, until you hear it on the grapevine that they have been complaining about you behind your back.” Aside from being an LGBTQ+ disabliity advocate, another highlight of Ebony’s career was performing with one of their heroes, David Hoyle, the avant-garde cabaret artist, singer, comedian and film director. “I met him years ago in Belfast and I just thought wow, who is this person! And then I got to perform with him, which is definitely a career highlight so far.” Ebony’s positivity is palpable – they are the poster star for living your best life. In fact, the life motto they share with others comes from R&B star India Arie. “The song is called Strength, Courage & Wisdom and I say that to any disabled person, whether their disability is visible or non-visible. I tell them, just remember there’s light at the end of the tunnel and to believe in what you’re doing and do what you need to do to ensure your own happiness and health.” i @ebony_rose_dark f

Gscene 17

excluded, that we’re not a valued part of society. Advertising is slowly changing but the inclusion of LGBTQ+ often misses the mark in terms of true representation.

Picture This

Libertipix is an exclusively LGBTQ+ stock image library providing authentic images shot through the lens of the people who know and understand the community the most, LGBTQ+ people themselves. We caught up with Donna and Nicola from Libertipix, the creative team behind this month’s cover shoot ) Why is Libertipix unique?

Instead of casting models to play gay or lesbian for example, we use real people who identity as LGBTQ+. Everything is shot by queer photographers and is guaranteed to be a sensitive and authentic portrayal of everyday queer life.


I’m struggling to think of the last time I saw a piece of communication featuring an authentic middle-aged lesbian couple. We can’t be invisible forever.

rainbow flags. Rather than rant and rave about this lack of authentic representation, we decided we’d be proactive and set up ourselves.

Who is your company aimed at? Any business that is interested in creating inclusive and diverse marketing collateral, really. Advertising and marketing agencies, LGBTQ+ businesses, design consultancies, brands, small businesses and charities. Why is Libertipix needed in industry? Donna’s background is in advertising, and over the years she found herself searching more and more stock-shot libraries for appropriate images to use in marketing campaigns. While looking through these stock libraries she noticed that there was a distinct lack of authentic LGBTQ+ images. Instead they were oversexualised, straight people cast as gay men and lesbians, images that followed a heteronormative narrative and a lot of

Seventy-two per cent of the LGBTQ+ community think the way they are presented in advertising is tokenistic, according to research commissioned by the Gay Times and Karmarama.

What are the wider consequences of underrepresentation in advertising and media? Everyone wants to be able to recognise themselves, whether it’s what they choose to buy, or the company they’d like to work for. How do you know you want to work for an organisation if you can’t see yourself? Under and misrepresentation affects how people relate to organisations, brands and products, and it’s also disenfranchising. On a wider psychological level, it makes us feel

Libertipix launched just ahead of the first lockdown. How has your business been impacted by lockdowns and Covid-19? Yes, unfortunately, the first lockdown meant we had to abandon our shoots for that period. And obviously, socially-distanced shoots have been challenging. What is your dream for Libertipix? If in five years’ time we have played our role in ‘liberating’ LGBTQ+ people from media misrepresentation, then we will have achieved our dream. We are at the beginning of our journey. Each year we aim to push further and further afield - getting queer photographers onboard from other parts of the world. At the moment, we are operating locally, featuring members of Brighton’s LGBTQ+ community captured by local queer photographers. We are constantly looking to hear from anyone who identifies as LGBTQ+ to feature in our photographs and, of course, photographers so get in touch. D f @libertipix e

18 Gscene

Team Gscene

Our merry band of writers, editors, social media and design folk is the backbone of this magazine. Pull up a chair and get acquainted...

Hi! I’m Rae, I’m 21 and a writer here at Gscene. I moved to Brighton three years ago to study English and Media at Sussex University with the goal of pursuing a career in journalism, so I was massively excited to join the Gscene team earlier this year, particularly as LGBTQ+ publications like this were so important to me growing up queer. My aim is to write stories which cover all corners of the LGBTQ+ community and I am so proud to be working for a magazine which promotes inclusion and diversity. When I’m not writing I’ll either be going for a run or a walk along the seafront or getting stuck into a good book. I’m also a cat lover, coffee addict and fan of all things fashion and beauty related.




Jaq started working in local newspapers at the age of 17 and turned freelance to allow her to undertake a degree in Media Studies at Sussex Uni – a bit of a back-tofront version of the usual career journey. She found her 15 minutes of fame by writing her dissertation for a Masters in Sexual Dissidence & Cultural Change (aka Queer Studies) on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She has worked on a variety of publications, including the Guardian Weekend magazine, was Gscene’s original Women’s Editor for several years and returned in 2019 as Features Editor. She has had a constant miniature schnauzer companion for most of her adult life, and when not up on the Downs with current pooch Sydney, she can often be found stand-up paddleboarding.


Graham is a massive Mackem who has lived in Bouelvard of Failed Romances, Brighton, for 10 years – the same time he has worked for Gscene. Before all that hoolabloo, Graham studied drama at college (a terrible

actor; an even worse contemporary dancer), before moving to the big smoke on his tod to study Journalism at London College of Communication. Graham loves pop music (especially French stuff), wine, wine, wine, and a whine, ‘cosy catastrophe’ novels, vinyl, weird Italian horror films, going to the gym when it’s open, and takes comfort in discovering alternative ways to walk home to dodge uncomfortable social interactions on St James’s Street.


James Ledward asked me to write some ‘interesting’ pieces for Gscene in 1997 never thinking that 23 years later I would still be doing it. My husband, Mike, joined me in 2002 and also started writing for the magazine. Mike died suddenly in 2019 so now this retired civil servant is still at it. I have lived in Brighton since 1948 and have been involved in hundreds of local events like the Pride parades, raising the initial funds for the Sussex Beacon and many others. Now well past my sell-by date I am trying to live a quiet life in Kemptown, but no chance.


Gscene 19 Finn has made Brighton his home for the past 20 years. In that time, his journey of self-discovery has included several comings out and transitions through all the letters of the LGBTQ+ alphabet. He’s worked for a variety of local LGBTQ+ organisations in different roles and is passionate about supporting the community and promoting queer rights. His areas of interest include: fetish culture, sexual health and sex positivity, and trans issues. His voluntary work includes running Trans Can Sport and when the wind is kind, sailing.


I identify as an older openly gay man but there is more to me than my sexuality. I have been HIV positive for 25 years, which has resulted in my blindness. I have adapted seeing and feeling the world around me differently to how I experienced the world before. My outlook of the world has heightened my spirituality and my view of life and its meaning. Music has always been a big part of my life but since losing my sight has become even more important to me than I could have ever imagined. Despite all of these barriers I now live life to the full independently and feeling connected to the local LGBTQ+ community through regular volunteering within the HIV sector.




Eric has been a regular columnist and contributor for Gscene magazine for more than 15 years, he also reviews the arts, conducts interviews with creative types and has a monthly book review spread – Page’s Pages. He’s also part of the team behind our fun social media accounts. He’s lived in the city for 25 years, loves the diversity of this Twisted Gilded Ghetto by the Sea, something which Gscene has at its heart. In his spare time he skates around the city desperately trying to be exquisite and dodge explaining. He’s Welsh, Cis, Queer and uses He/Him pronouns. He’s also rather fierce for his age, which is unbearably sweet. When I was at school, and I am now showing my age, you were either a Beatles or a Rolling Stones fan. Well, I was neither, and after a trawl through R&B and blues I arrived at Miles Davis and John Coltrane. I haven’t looked back since. I can’t explain why jazz has hooked me for so long, but the thrill of the improvised and unexpected, and the beauty of the musicianship, still amaze me. Over the years I have attended many gigs, written books about jazz, and churned out reviews for Jazz Journal and other mags. Jazz has always entertained me, which is what I hope my monthly column for Gscene does for you as well.



Billie Gold is Brighton’s very own 1980s space lesbian who rocks her thigh-highs on Brighton’s top LGBTQ+ stages. She also writes the Golden Hour column.

Alex studied theatre at Jacques Lecoq in France. As well as covering the local arts scene, he works as a travel writer and content marketer. The best live shows he’s seen are


Been around for years. Bit of a hoarder. Likes fast music, short films and hairy men. Partial to talking to people about their lives and telling stories from Brighton’s queer past.

Kate Bush and David Bowie. When he isn’t writing, he likes travelling and rifling around in TK Maxx. With thanks to Chris Jepson for the black & white photos used on this spread. See p40 for a feature on Chris’s Identity Project

20 Gscene



CHRIS GULL Brian Butler is an ex daily newspaper journalist and broadcaster who spent over 40 years acting, writing, directing and producing for amateur theatres in Leeds, Newcastle, Birmingham and London. He read Drama and English at Birmingham University. He was an Olivier Award judge in 1987. He spent most of his career in media relations for the Callaghan, Thatcher, Major and Blair governments, the Royal Family and finally as communications director for the British Medical Association. He has written two dictionaries, two pantomimes, cabaret shows and is currently writing a feature film.



Chris moved to Brighton in 1976 and over the course of 40 years worked as a dentist, chaired Brighton Cares, retired and, with his partner Gary, set up a coffee shop, a bar/ bistro, and latterly a 100-seat theatre with bar and cafe. They moved to Valencia in 2016, but Chris is in daily contact with Brighton in his continuing role as chair of the Brighton Rainbow Fund, and is business manager and contributor for Gscene.

Enzo Marra is an artist and poet who explores divergent themes that consider the human condition. He has exhibited his artworks internationally and continues to work on extending his creative practice. He has previously been selected for the John Moores Painting Prize in 2012 and 2016, and has recently been a judge and artist in residence for the Beep Painting Biennial in Swansea.





After over 20 years as a manager in the voluntary sector, I now work freelance, and teach at the Open University. However, I’m lucky to be able to spend a lot of time enjoying music of all kinds – listening, attending concerts and performing (although most of that is sadly on hold at present). My main passion is classical music, as well as opera, with a particular interest in early music. I sing in a number of choirs locally, play the piano and occasionally dust off the violin. I’ve been writing for Gscene for 13 years now, and I also have my own music blog, Classical Notes.

Craig Hanlon-Smith, having lived in Brighton for almost 20 years, has written for Gscene for 17 of those. In 2018 our dear departed James Ledward said of Craig’s contributions: “He’s not afraid to tackle difficult issues and is unscrupulously fair when unravelling problematic stories. He can write on any subject often using humour to make his point and he has a complete grasp of the concept of LGBT communities.” Working in London education, Craig wants to spend more time raising money and awareness for those living with HIV and open up the discussion on the accelerating endemic drug use among gay and bisexual men, and its impact upon our mental health and wellbeing.

If you’ve ever been out on the Brighton & Hove scene, there’s a good chance you will have bumped into this cheeky chappy. Often seen hiding behind a drag queen’s bustle with his camera... ready to pounce, Jack is proud to have been scene photographer for Gscene since 2015. As Jack says... “I’m in awe of our vibrant city and its close-knit community and love the opportunities Gscene has given me in capturing our ever-changing and accepting scene. I can’t wait to get back behind the camera for Gscene when things start to settle down. Mine’s a tequila!” Jack is currently exhibiting at The Brighton Box in Duke’s Lane, Brighton. While the official opening of the gallery on November 7 was postponed until post lockdown, his work can be seen and purchased online at For more info, visit

Gscene 21 management) embedded a love of LOPs, SOPs and service improvement. I’m constantly on the hunt for new things that make life easier, either personally or in business, and I’m always happy to share what I’ve discovered, especially where knowledge is being shared around.

Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus so if you’ve seen one of our shows over the past nine years, you’ve probably seen me doing a spot of acting or belting out the odd solo number.




Samantha is a freelance NCTJ journalist and social media manager with five years experience writing for local and national magazines and newspapers. Titles include The Argus, Latest Magazine, The Sun, Men’s Health, Closer Online, Heat World and Fabulous Digital. As a sideline, she also works at one of Brighton”s LGBTQ+ bars on St James’s Street, where you can find her quaffing Jägerbombs and being fabulous most weekends.


Hi I’m Glenn, a bit of a veteran writer for Gscene. About eight years ago I asked James Ledward if I could join the team and have been writing on a diverse range of topics every other month since. My day job is working for Brighton & Hove Council’s Library Service, which has been supporting a project I am founder of, called More to Me Than HIV: Other passions include watching a good horror movie or sitting back and listening to a wide range of music, at the moment I have the singer Tom Grennan on loop.

Hi everyone, I have been gardening professionally since I left school and retired when I reached 65. I have worked for private estates and have also worked abroad in France and Bulgaria (no uncles though). The allotment has been my hobby for the past five years and has been very productive. I have been with my partner Tim for 23 years and he takes the photos. Donald is my co-worker and he is in charge of the weeds. I enjoy reading, travelling when allowed and have just bought a camper van.




Friendly, approachable and definitely a talker. That’s probably how my chosen family would describe me. I’ve spent the best part of my adult life building relationships. Coming from pub-life at a young age (10) and working in commercial recruitment set me up for being that guy. The one who knows the person who can sort out that problem you’ve been having. The one that can make sure your business or service gets in front of a cash-in-the-handready-to-spend audience for a real blinding price. On that note, I look after advertising sales and support for the magazine. My years working in the NHS (urgent care operational

I write the Stuff And Things column where I write about Stuff. And Things. I live my single life (please form an orderly queue) near Preston Park and am a true Brightonian. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Poems, articles, sketches, plays... I’ve even had a crack at a sitcom. I’m a member of

Hey folks! After graduating with a degree in music technology, I’m here to put that piece of paper to good use and bring you the best sounds I can get my paws on. You might have found me on the scene mixing up a pop party storm as a DJ, or entertaining the masses with camp classics as my drag alter ego, Rob from Finance. But if there’s anything I love more than music, it’s my two cats Kiki and Robin.

22 Gscene



pleasures like the Waldorf Daiquiri (the only drink I’ve had to make celery juice for AND the only drink I’ve garnished with Stilton!), but I must admit nothing really beats an Espresso Martini for me. There’s a core list of about 40 – some classics, some our own concoctions – as well as regularly changing ‘guest’ cocktails; and a mocktail list made with Stryyk alcohol-free spirits... something for everyone.

Hello Sailor! Steven Lee, fella at the helm of opulent nautical-themed bar Nautilus Lounge where Gscene shot this month’s cover, tells us why his bar is shipshape and ready to sail into 2021 ) How did you end up where you are today?

Raised by wolves after my parents were killed by an electric eel while exploring the Amazon basin, I returned to civilisation... No, seriously, just a normal (?) upbringing in the suburbs, as an introspective, geeky homosexualist - before it was cool, back when it was also shameful and secretive. I was helped into bloom by Tim; we met while I was working as pub chef and he was the manager. Together we tenanted a selection of (straight) pubs before joining together in civil partnership, then ‘retiring’ to Brighton in 2009. Tim sadly passed away in 2017. I took ownership of Subline in 2019 and had already been diversifying with games nights, cocktails, and a more open-door policy. I‘d decided on the undersea theme at least in part to “make the best of what I’d got”, so we were already working towards it when the Covid-19 pandemic forced me into action.

Nautilus Lounge launched in August. How did the idea come about? The team and I tirelessly tore the place apart and rebuilt it during the first lockdown, with a look that mixes Steampunk, Victoriana and Art Deco; lots of comfortable sofas; low tables and an open, sociable feel. Chilled and ‘grown up’... Perfect for social distancing, table service, and the new normal. It was a mad scramble to get things ready but we hit the ground running. After temperature checks, signing-in, and a good dousing with sanitiser, guests descend the stairs – and beneath the waves – to find themselves in the Nautilus engine room. From there we’ll allocate them a sofa in the lounge or a table in the crew quarters... only a tiny bit camp. Although we’ve plenty of wines and beers to choose from, the big focus now is on cocktails - we have great fun experimenting and seeking obscure new ingredients, turning up unexpected

Are you seeing a more varied clientele? It’s been very mixed and has included a fair few tourists (considering the pandemic), but Nautilus Lounge is entirely gay-owned and operated, and is at heart an LGBTQ+ space. How has lockdown been treating you? It’s consisted of dog-walking, online shopping, cooking, and gaining weight; which is the story for most of us? From years of dealing with the public, it’s suddenly quite a small and quiet lif, although I’ve found it thankfully (surprisingly) easy to adjust, knowing it’s not forever. When will Nautilus Lounge return? Depending on tiers, we might be back in action in December – keep checking our social media and website for more info – so I’ve got lots to do in preparation: festive extensions to the cocktail list, enhancements to the decor, and a tonne of paperwork, at the very least. What does the future hold? Despite pandemic restrictions, our weekly quiz, hosted by regular barboy Ian, has become very popular, and the reconfigured space also includes a stage. I’m looking forward to welcoming back Club Silencio – resident queer theatre hilarity from the Subline days – as well as other performers in the new year. Will LGBTQ+ Brighton bounce back? Brighton still wants to party; the scene is more robust than many and I would have thought. Even if the vaccine doesn’t get things back to normal, venues and customers have proven how adaptable they can be. The scene might not be as distinct as it once was – and more inclusivity/less ghettoisation is a victory, lest we forget – but there will always be a need for community spaces, and we’re pleased to be one! A HUGE thank you to Nautilus Lounge for letting us shoot our Dec cover in difficult times. During the shoot we, the models, photographers and the bar adhered to social distancing guidelines. With Brighton & Hove in tier 2 (at the time of writing) check the Nautilus Lounge social media and website for more info, including opening hours over the festive period and beyond. D ft @NautilusLounge


My Kinda Christmas Seaford gardener Geoff Stonebanks showed off his fabulously festive collection on TV last month. And yes, we’re now a ‘little green’ with envy... ) Last month, Seaford resident and well-

known local gardener Geoff Stonebanks revealed his other grand passion, Christmas decorations, in a Channel 5 programme, Incredible Christmas Trees and How to Decorate Them – a festive run-down of all things Christmas tree and a showcase of the most beautiful around the world.

The production team from Athena Films, who made the programme, had been researching

His eclectic mix includes delicate pieces from 1930s Prague, many glass baubles from the 1950s and ’60s and a wealth of decorations from Woolworths from 1960 until its demise. Following a spell of six successive Christmas breaks with friends in Washington DC back in the late 1990s, he began a collection of the official White House Christmas decorations, issued by the White House Historical Association. These are beautifully crafted pieces in memory of past presidents, each beautifully packed in decorative boxes – a detailed history of the president immortalised. OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS

Geoff has been interested in Christmas decorations since his early childhood, when his parents had a country pub in Oxfordshire. As a young boy he used to help his mother decorate the two public bars and their private accommodation, but soon ended up taking over. He then went on to decorate the pub, The Dolphin, right up to 1987, when his parents retired, continuing to purchase new ones for his own home.

possible scenarios and had contacted Geoff through his social media. Nikkita and Ollie from the production company, within Covid secure restrictions, spent half a day at Geoff’s home, filming part of his amazing collection, gathered over the past 60 years. Normally, he wouldn’t have put his decorations up until December 1, but with broadcast deadline looming, the producers needed to ask if he would decorate just one room, ahead of time, to facilitate filming. So Geoff spent four days getting the required baubles, trees and lights out of the loft.

ages to set up, with all the branches having to be just right. Once assembled, there are three strings of light. One goes top to bottom, up and down the tree; one spirals around bottom to top in one direction; and the final one spirals up in the opposite direction. Flashing sequences of the three sets are then adjusted to give the perfect look. Next, tinsel and silver beads are carefully positioned to create evenly balanced swirls all the way up the tree, followed by the baubles and other decorations.”

The tree in Geoff’s living room alone has 15m of tinsel, 1,700 fairy lights, over 800 baubles and 10m of silver beading. Geoff tells us: “I always feel, when getting my garden ready to open every year, that I am dressing a film set for visitors to view and the same principle applies with my Christmas decorations. I’m a bit of a perfectionist. The artificial tree takes GEOFF WHILE BEING FILMED

Geoff added: “It is no mean feat to get this collection down out of the loft and set up every year, even more so to pack it all up again after Christmas and put it back in the loft. By New Year’s Day, even I’ve had enough.” Athena Films made a payment to Geoff for his time, which has since been donated to Macmillan Cancer Support. ) Incredible Christmas Trees and How to

Decorate Them is available to watch on My5 D Read more of Geoff’s Christmas, present and past, by visiting


24 Gscene

Leave it all behind

No one’s going to be sorry to see the back of 2020, and hopes are on a new dawn come January with the chance to get away from it all. Jaq Bayles goes on a journey of discovery for LGBTQ+ dream destinations

) This year anyone whose travel plans

went ahead smoothly will have been in the minority. With flights grounded during lockdown and the pandemic leading the government to constantly and seemingly randomly change rules around which countries were ‘safe’ to visit once lockdown was lifted, the overseas holiday market has been hammered. Anyone who managed to get away was sunbathing under a cloud of uncertainty

about whether they would need to drop their flip flops and return home at a moment’s notice if they were to avoid two weeks of self-isolation – the situation hardly made for a relaxing break. Little surprise, then, that many turned to the UK staycation, swapping ouzo and calamari in Lesvos for beer and chips in Littlehampton, ditching the pelicans of Mykonos in favour of the gulls of Margate, and replacing hiking in Tuscany with a stroll around Truro.

Alliteration allusions aside, it turned out that many people suddenly woke up to the fact that Britain actually has an awful lot to offer, and some experts predict that a new mindset around holidays is not going to go away.

Host Unusual specialises in unique properties for holiday stays and has a web page dedicated solely to the many that are designated LGBTQ-friendly. Brighton-based co-founder and director Alex Wilson says this was to ensure no one experienced the sort of “frosty reception” he and his partner had encountered at check-ins in some parts of the world, and he adds there has been “a massive rise” in searches for UK properties. He says: “Everyone’s switched focus to staycations and realised there’s a lot more they can do at home. With the situation changing so frequently they are worried about going overseas. There are unique things people can do at home, like stay in a WWII operations bunker or in a prison-themed room. This is going to cause a permanent change in people’s mindset. People are a lot more sensitive to reducing their carbon footprint and are a lot more vocal about it now. I do see it as more of a permanent trend.” And, with necessity being the mother of invention and all that, there has been an incremental increase in ever-more quirky places in which to take your staycation – hobbit homes, treehouses, a tent suspended MALTA

Gscene 25

The aforementioned Lesvos and Mykonos immediately spring to mind, as of course does Sitges, but many countries have cottoned on to the benefits of embracing us, to which Darren Burn, group CEO of Brighton and London-based LGBTQ+ travel specialist Out of Office, attests. “There are countless tourist boards internationally that recognise [the worth] of LGBTQ+ tourists,” he says. “They have 23% more disposable income, and provide word of mouth referrals to friends. Tourist boards are investing in that, marketing to us, looking at how they welcome us. After 9-11 the LGBTQ+ community was first to start travelling again. “A lot of countries recognise that when travel bounces back LGBTQ+ will be one of the first. There are double incomes, often no kids and we travel more as a community and take more trips per year than our heterosexual counterparts. Lots of countries are doing it from a selfish economic standpoint, others will be doing it because it’s good for them – good for business and the right thing to do.” He cites Malta as a country that has really shown commitment to recognising equal rights for LGBTQ+ people. “Malta used to be pretty low down on the ILGA list [which ranks

the crisis by opening his doors to people in need: “Since March, our cleaning Due to the enduring Covid-19 restrictions, schedule has increased many B&Bs have had to make changes to to be Covid-19 safe, each the way they conduct business. Sam Harman Airbnb has needed to speaks to two of Brighton’s B&B owners to find be empty for at least 48 out how this has affected trade and exactly hours before another guest what adjustments have been made. can check in, in line with regulations. Billy Bartlett, owner of Colson House, shared his story with us: “During the second lockdown, business hasn’t “We needed to adapt our business to prepare for been that great, so I decided to offer my the now and uncertain future of hospitality. Our accommodation to people in need, those first port of call was to ensure all safety and risk who had to self-isolate or people who were in situations they didn’t want to be in. assessments were in place in readiness for the LEE COCKSHOTT

But for many, even the promise of a pyjama party in a stable, lulled to sleep by the gentle snorting of their own equine companion, will never top the desire to go exotic, to discover new countries and to be in a place that is open-armed to the LGBTQ+ community.

Brighton B&B owners discuss Covid-19 restrictions

opening, this however was just the first step. “We spent a majority of our time on marketing, reaching out to our booking platforms such as and Expedia to ensure we gained maximum exposure, we internally pushed our own marketing platforms such as Instagram, not just by posting pictures, but by working with others in promoting competitions including Brighton-based business owners such as Greens and Grains, a local artist (FdDub) and a yoga instructor (Kurazana). The competition was a huge success for us all and we gained a good wealth of exposure from UK travel bloggers and proved that working together with local business and talent is a real asset.


2,000ft above a valley – and the list goes on.

“We also, collectively with many other guest houses, B&Bs and hotels have pushed for guests to book directly, cutting out the middle-man, giving more to us as small businesses and often giving the guest a better deal than a booking platform.” Lee Cockshott, Airbnb owner, has dealt with

“I put up some people from London who are in receipt of benefits, they were attending a court case in Brighton and couldn’t afford travel or accommodation, so I put them up for free. “I also have two keyworkers in one of my properties that pay £10 a night each, which is very reasonable for Brighton. “It hasn’t been about making money for me right now, I just wanted to do my bit and give something back to people in need. “We’re hoping to back up and running by December 3, we’re expecting a bumper month compared to recent years, purely because people will relish the opportunity to get away after being in lockdown.” D Colson House Airbnb page: www.airbnb. share_id=da22e24a-63a3-4d1e-a2dd317bbfc26fc7 D Beachside House Airbnb page: rooms/35417651?s=67&unique_ share_id=3c97ee34-7712-41ab-ab05165db30bb39f LESVOS


“Seriously, lesbians have an enduring affinity with the wild west, likely fuelled by movies such as Calamity Jane, the titular tomboy character played by Doris Day” 49 countries in Europe on their legal situation for LGBTQ+ people]. It’s now number one in terms of being LGBTQ+ friendly. It has invested in making same-sex marriage legal and taking gender off passports – it is marketing to our community and other places are following suit.” And he makes the point that countries currently upholding LGBTQ-unfriendly laws will likely continue to do so unless they are challenged. “Take the Maldives. Some people say ‘why would I support the economy where it’s illegal to be gay?’ But if we don’t travel to them it will never change. In the Maldives there are plenty of LGBTQ+ employees and I know because I’ve met them.” Over in the equally breath-taking Seychelles, it is legal to partake of homosexual activity, and Darren says there are some incredible deals to be had on flights to that particular destination right now, although that’s likely to change come the new year, with January

being one of the biggest booking months of the year. “People want relaxation and to switch off. We are definitely seeing much more beachy holidays, relaxation rather than adventure tourism like Machu Pichu or Vietnam. People are looking at R&R because they’ve had such a crap time. Wellbeing will be even bigger. People are working from home so much they need a change of scenery. In French Polynesia it’s fully legal to be LGBTQ+ but it’s a long way away.” Much closer to home is Halifax, put firmly on the global lesbian travel map by Sally Wainwright’s BBC series Gentleman Jack, charting the real-life adventures of Anne Lister, whose portrayal by Suranne Jones trembled many a dyke’s knees. No surprise then that Gentleman Jack tours, set up by Diva Destinations, attracted huge amounts of attention, particularly from the States, the Americans being big lovers of

costume dramas and, it would seem, striking lesbian lead characters.

Jen Grant, the Hastings-based founder of the company – one of only two lesbianspecific travel firms in the world, the other being Olivia in America – says there are big differences between what lesbians seek from a group holiday and what gay men expect. “Lesbians want that experiential aspect, the cultural aspect. They’re not interested in sitting on a beach – that’s a very cruising element of the gay male community.” But lesbians aren’t averse to fitting into a stereotype either when it comes to holidays. THE PIECE HALL, HALIFAX

Another winner is a ranch getaway – horses, Stetsons, more leather accessories than you can shake a riding crop at, plus campfires and giant Saguaro cacti, all in the dry heat of the desert. Seriously, lesbians have an enduring affinity with the wild west, likely fuelled by movies such as Calamity Jane, the titular tomboy character played by Doris Day – possibly one of the most unlikely women ever to play a lesbian icon – and Desert Hearts, the very raunchy for its day film adaptation (there were men in raincoats at the cinema screening I went to) of Jane Rule’s book Desert of the Heart.


Gscene 27

Sashay Away!

Orphanages, Bang Jing Jai Orphanage, The Father Ray Foundation and Heart2000 HIV charity. Between us we’ve raised literally All of us love a good getaway; whether it’s a tens of thousands of pounds over the years, city break or a beach resort, holidays are one something I’m extremely proud of. I love of everyone’s favourite ways to unwind and Thailand, I love the people, the smiles and get a dose of escapism. However, 2020 saw the honesty, there is a large expat community many have to cancel their holiday plans as which we always perform to – I might do one the coronavirus pandemic led to global travel show or even three while I am there a few restrictions. So in the spirit of our holiday issue, and in the hope next year will once again times a year, but it’s so much fun!” see us being able to embark on adventures Award-winning queen and cabaret artist, Drag around the world, Rachel Badham got two of With No Name, recalls their visits to the Brighton’s most beloved drag artists to share Canary Islands: their favourite holiday memories. “I've been very fortunate to have many Drag queen and events organiser Davina holidays over the years – the bonus of being Sparkle is an annual visitor to Thailand where a drag queen and being self employed – but she raises funds for multiple organisations: never have I laughed and partied so much as I “I do miss my holidays in Thailand, and because have on my visits to Gran Canaria. My boyfriend and I used to live and work over there 20 years of 'Miss Rona' it has closed its borders for some ago, and it has been a place we have visited time, but I was introduced to the resort of many times since. Pattaya through friends. Pattaya is around 100 miles south of Bangkok, when I go I usually “The weather is amazing, the people are kind stay with the Queen – the Queen of Pattaya and welcoming, and it is always the messiest, that is, Madame Jim – at her beautiful Baan funniest and most enjoyable of holidays, but Souy Resort. Along with Miss Jason and Maisie would be NOTHING without the friends we have Trollette, I have all holidayed here since 2007 shared those holidays with. They drink just as and have performed at the Bondi Bar, The Cafe much as we do, laugh at the same things, and Royale Hotel, The Copa Showbar, Boyz Boyz party just as hard. I care about and love them Boyz, Panorama Bar and of course the Baan a great deal, and life would be pretty boring Souy Resort. without each and every one of them in our lives. Carpe diem, people, carpe diem.” "We fundraise for the likes of Thais 4 Life

Jen says there’s a safety element when it comes to lesbian group holidays and when she started the business in 2013 it quickly became clear that many of the women contacting her were more mature and single and wanted to meet people in a relaxed way. “We wanted that element that they felt safe but it’s not in any way dating. It’s literally bringing women together on a hosted group. “Women want companionship but they don’t want to go on a straight group holiday because of the men. “Everyone is chomping at the bit to get away,” she says, adding: “Apparently Easyjet bookings suddenly soared when they heard about the vaccine. That will definitely make travel easier and safer.” But coronavirus is not the only cloud hanging over the travel industry right now – the UK has left the European Union and many sectors will face new rules from January 1. It’s currently looking not impossible that we will crash out with no deal, so what might that mean for European travel? Darren says Brexit will have legal ramifications around ATOL and there will be a lot of technical things for airlines to deal with, but thinks there will be a reciprocal agreement. And he also points out that many European countries rely on British travellers. He adds: “Consumer confidence is shot right now in every industry and sector. The focus early next year has to be on giving people confidence and knowing that options are available.” In the meantime, dream of French Polynesia, or horses, or cruising – whatever floats your boat. D D D


More info


28 Gscene

Spice Up YOUR Life

With 2020 being a damp squib for LGBTQ+ travel and events, Alex Klineberg has pulled together a round-up which should add a splash of colour to your 2021 ) There’s a huge amount of pent-up demand,

which will hopefully be unleashed in 2021. That vaccine better arrive soon, Madonna – I mean Moderna. Lots of major LGBTQ+ events are set to go ahead next year. Clearly, we’re living in very strange times and some of these events may have to be rescheduled. But let’s assume the vaccine cavalry has arrived and 2021 won’t be cancelled. We’ve gathered together the biggest destination events, from circuit parties in Palm Springs to London’s Mighty Hoopla. Here’s hoping lockdown will be a distant memory by the time you hit one of these... ) White Party – Palm Springs (April 2021)

) DragFest – Ibiza (May 2021)

Klub Kids is responsible for some of the biggest and best drag events. Many Drag Race stars do their tours with Klub Kids. DragFest

The full line-up will be Ruvealed soon. Todrick Hall, Shea Coulee and Miz Cracker are headlining the London event, so expect big names for Ibiza. t ) Mighty Hoopla – London (June 2021)

Mighty Hoopla has become the gay Glastonbury. It’s a see and be seen event – no scene queen would miss it for the world. In 2019, the mighty Chaka Khan headlined. All Saints and Jamelia were also on the bill. The 2020 event was cancelled for obvious reasons. D ) L Fest – Llandudno (July 2021)

L Fest includes comedy, music, cabaret and parties. It will be taking place at Bodafon Farm. Cindy Edwards launched the event

back in 2010. L Fest began as a sports weekend and evolved into a full-scale festival. You’ll be glamping in a very attractive setting – it’s close to the beach. They also have wood-fired pizza ovens so the food on offer should be pretty decent. Check out the pic of the iconic Toyah! D ) XLSIOR – Mykonos (August 2021)

Mykonos is, of course, the gay party destination of choice in Europe. It’s one of the most beautiful islands in the world. No influencer’s Insta grid is complete without several shots of them in Mykonos. XLSIOR takes place during the busiest time in peak season and usually starts at the Elysium Hotel. Around 30,000 people will attend – that’s three times the permanent population of the island. D DINAH SHORE WEEKEND - COPYRIGHT MOLLY ADAMS

Jeffrey Sanker’s White Party events are the US’s biggest gay circuit parties. Expect lots of shirtless men dancing all day and night in Palm Springs. The testosterone will be off the scale. There’ll be pool parties, club nights and more. Start doing sit-ups now. D

already hosts major shows in Manchester and London. The Ibiza event has recently been announced. Ibiza Rocks is the host hotel.

Gscene 29

) Bear Week – Sitges (September 2021)

The eighth edition of Ella Fest arrives in Mallorca in late August. Ella hosts lesbian festivals all over the world, from Mexico to Davos. We like the Mallorca one as it’s easier to get to and hotter than Switzerland. The full line-up is yet to be announced. D

Sitges is Spain’s most popular gay party town. One of the biggest events in Sitges is Bear Week. This will be a more body positive event than some of the glitzier circuit parties. There’ll be various events over the week, including White Night, a Beach Party and a Boat Party. Mr Bear Sitges 2021 will also be crowned.

) Dinah Shore Week – Palm Springs

(August-September 2021) The five-day Dinah Shore weekend is probably the world’s biggest lesbian party. The event is set to return in May or September 2021. The L Word Pool Party is one of the highlights. Expect club nights, top DJs, celebrity appearances and more. Palm Springs has long been a big draw for LGBTQ+ Americans. It’s considered to be – in numerical terms – America’s gayest city. And if you’re into herstory: Greta Garbo used to entertain attractive ladies at her holiday home in Palm Springs. D

In peak season, Sitges attracts more LGBT+ than straight travellers. It’s just 40-minutes by train from Barcelona. f bearssitgesweekoficial/ ) Folsom Europe – Berlin (September

(2021) Berlin is home to Europe’s most outrageous sex-positive gay scene. From the Berghain to Laboratory, it’s the place to be if you like to party hard, so to speak. Berlin offers the perfect combination of high culture and hedonism. It’s also much cheaper than London.



) ELLA Fest – Mallorca (August 2021)

Folsom Fair is Berlin’s biggest fetish and circuit party event. It’s set to go ahead in September. Don’t forget your harness. D ) International Eressos Women’s Festival –

Lesvos (September 2021) Join a two-week getaway on the historic Greek island of Lesvos. Yes, this island is the native home of lesbians, associated as it is with the poet Sappho. The festival is based in Skala Eressos, a charming town. The 2020 event was cancelled so the 20th anniversary celebration has been pushed forward to 2021. The full events programme will be announced soon. D



made everyone want to read it and copies were smuggled in from France. On August 2, 1932, they began a two-month stay at the Royal Crescent Hotel at 100–101 Marine Parade. They were living in Rye at the time but were having a break in Brighton as Una was recovering from a hysterectomy. When John wasn’t pushing Una along the seafront in a bathchair, she was writing a collection of short stories entitled Miss Ogilvy Finds Herself. Miss Wilhelmina Ogilvy is a nononsense middle-aged spinster who prefers to be called William – I’m sensing a theme here. There are, of course, times you just need to relax, unwind, and spend some alone time with your new lady friend. In February 1944, the painter and stylish gender-rebel Gluck checked in to the Beaufort Hotel at 21 Brunswick Place with their new journalist chum Edith Shackleton Heald. Gluck had been a very popular artist in the 1930s – the Queen had attended one of their exhibitions – but they had fallen out of fashion by this time. Edith had just helped Gluck organise a ‘oneman show’ of their paintings at Steyning Grammar School before they came to Brighton. It was to be their last exhibition aside from the retrospective towards the end of their life.

Historical Holidays & Gay Getaways Recovery, relaxation or recreation? With illustrations by Tracy Gilchrist, Alf Le Flohic looks back at queer icons who visited our queer streets to heal, hang loose or have a ball that people like us come to when they want to get away for a little. For centuries in fact. Sometimes it’s been for recovery purposes, sometimes simply to relax, and of course we all like a little recreation from time to time. Firmly in the recovery category are our first couple of visitors: author Marie Corelli and her constant companion Bertha Vyer. They stayed at the King’s Hotel (139–141 King’s Road) in 1899, while Marie recuperated after a serious operation. She wrote The Master Christian during her stay there. It concerns the immorality of priests and features the second coming of Christ as a street urchin called Manuel. Seriously. An eccentric character, she pretended she could speak Italian and insisted any photographs of her were touched up to keep her forever 21. Her writing was just as quirky, mixing weird science, religion and romance. In her first novel, A Romance of Two Worlds, the soul of a female pianist explores other realms by ‘personal electricity’. Her books also frequently featured erotic descriptions of

female beauty and to quote the same novel: “I embraced her fondly, and our lips met with a lingering sisterly caress.”

But Gluck and Edith’s blossoming relationship survived that experience and later that year they moved into Chantry House in Steyning. They remained there together for the rest of their lives.

Bertha was a talented painter in her own right, but gave this up to support Marie’s career. Marie was one of the UK’s most successful writers before World War 1 – indeed, Queen Victoria was said to be a fan. However, she later became a figure of fun – author EF Benson acknowledged her as the inspiration for his 1920s comic character, Lucia. And Oscar Wilde from Reading Gaol is quoted as saying: “Now don’t think I’ve anything against her moral character, but from the way she writes she ought to be in here.” Our second couple is author Radclyffe ‘John’ Hall and sculptor Lady Una Troubridge. While Marie and Bertha may have been simply loving companions, John and Una were as ‘out’ as you could be in the 1920s and ‘30s. Radclyffe Hall is famous, or should that be infamous, for her 1928 novel The Well of Loneliness. Its open portrayal of the butch lesbian life of Stephen Gordon caused uproar and it was banned in the UK. Amusingly that


) Brighton has long been one of the places

They enjoyed a week’s holiday on the coast, visiting the local area and having tea at the Royal Pavilion. Gluck was getting over their long-term affair with the married philanthropist Nesta Obermer, who lived in Plumpton. Apparently, Nesta called Gluck on the phone every night during their stay at the hotel, which sounds decidedly awkward!



and sexual relationships with other women. You’ll be pleased to hear there were coded entries for their stay in Brighton. “Good kiss last night. Got into bed again this morning for half hour and had another kiss.” I’m assuming the word kiss is a euphemism, but that might just be my filthy mind. Almost 150 years later, in the summer of 1967, influential ‘60s playwright and fan of a good scandal Joe Orton stayed in Shoreham with his lover, Kenneth Halliwell. They were staying with theatre producer Oscar Lewenstein for the weekend to discuss Joe’s new two-act farce What the Butler Saw.

It was the Grand Hotel (97–99 King’s Road) that housed our next couple of guests. Irish playwright Oscar Wilde, and poet Lord Alfred Douglas (aka Bosie), arranged a discreet rendezvous there in October 1894. Prior to this, Wilde had been staying in Worthing along with his wife and two young sons, where he’d been writing his soon-to-be hit comedy The Importance of Being Ernest. Unfortunately, the chill session he’d organised with Bosie didn’t quite go as planned, as Bosie caught the flu. Wilde pampered him until he was well enough for them both to transfer to another hotel. Then Wilde fell ill. Bosie threw a frightening tantrum, abandoned Wilde and checked back into the Grand Hotel.

This was roughly six months before Wilde would be publicly humiliated and imprisoned for ‘gross indecency’, or to quote one of Bosie’s poems – “the love that dare not speak its name”. On a lighter note, Brighton has seen its fair share of sauce over the centuries. On August 23, 1826, landowner Anne Lister checked into the Royal York Hotel (41–42 Old Steine) with her lover Mariana Lawton. In her hometown of Halifax, Anne was sometimes referred to as Gentleman Jack because of her masculine appearance. (Yes, it’s the same one from the recent BBC series.) Anne and Mariana found themselves stranded in Brighton for three days while they waited for a boat to take them to France. They took a turn around the recently opened Royal Suspension Chain Pier, and sauntered along the seafront to the Kemptown estate, which was still under construction. Anne has become famous these days for the diaries she kept which detailed all of her activities. And I mean all! They included passages written in code, which when translated in the 1930s revealed her romantic

The rain continued all weekend. On the Sunday Joe left his companions at the cinema in Brighton in favour of cruising the cottages. He called in at the gents’ public toilets that used to be situated on St Peter’s Place behind St Peter’s Church. He began talking to a tall man. Having groped each other, the man offered the services of another figure skulking in the corner of the lavatory. To quote from Joe’s diary again: “He made a motion to the

dwarfish creature, rather as someone would call a taxi. The dwarf sucked me off while the other man smiled benevolently.” And on that happy ending… I think we’ll conclude our trip down Brighton’s memory lanes.

About Tracy Gilchrist The Hove-based artist originally created the illustrations accompanying this piece for another of Alf Le Flohic’s projects and they were featured in a booklet for a ‘gay walkabout/tour’ around Brighton. She now primarily works in painting, and will be part of a group exhibition at Brush in the North Laine in December. Her most successful works tend to be wildlife art and she has collectors in New York, Denver, Connecticut, Netherlands and all over the UK. D OSCAR WILDE - ILLUS: TRACY GILCHRIST

On October 16, Wilde’s 40th birthday, he was still unwell but received an envelope from Bosie. It was a letter saying he had charged all his hotel expenses to Wilde and “when you are not on your pedestal you are not interesting”.

On Friday, July 28, Joe and Kenneth took a walk along the beach despite the spitting rain. Joe’s diary records: “We had to clamber over innumerable breakwaters which were thick with slime and grime. As we approached the power station our nostrils were assailed by a terrible stench. The sea frothed and bubbled with the rain and an overpowering smell of chemicals, rotting seaweed and the dung of countless birds met us. ‘This is a terrible way to spend our leisure’ Kenneth said.”

32 Gscene

Turn Back the Pages

Gscene has been published every month for over 27 years, and is a rich chronicle of the history of our LGBTQ+ communities, in and around Brighton & Hove. Chris Gull raids the archives… was chosen, Phil singing This Is My life. This was Phil’s last appearance and what an occasion it was. The service was a rollercoaster of emotions, a celebration of the life of a lovely man. The church service was organised by John Bruzon, Phil’s pianist for the last 17 years, who perfectly captured the moment with his choice of music. In the words of the actress, June Brown, “a celebration of the life of someone who other professionals in show business called The Master”.

models in sexy underwear’ – those were the days! But they had a serious message. Launched in time for World Aids Day, the campaign features male models in a range of sexy underwear. Each poster highlights how the symptoms for STIs are often mistaken for something else or easily ignored, and why leaving the early stages of an infection can make them more difficult to treat (and more likely to spread). STIs have been steadily increasing among gay men and having an STI makes it much easier to get HIV. Many STIs are easy to pass on without fully realising what they are – so, as well as the obvious discharge, everyone should take that sore, rash, flu-like symptom or burning sensation when peeing more seriously. The sooner men get symptoms sorted the sooner they can ‘get back out there’.

December 2010 Not to be confused with the Count Me In Too research project into LGBTQ+ Brighton, this was a campaign led by Gay Men Fighting Aids (GMFA) ) One of the fascinating things about looking

back five, 10 and 15 years is how much has changed, but at the same time how nothing has changed.

December 2005 James Ledward´s lovely description of Phil Starr´s funeral could almost have described his own 14 years later. The same church, lined streets, packed church and a lot of emotion. GOODBYE PHIL ) More than 1,000 mourners packed the church of St Mary’s The Virgin on Sunday, November 6 for the funeral of Phil Starr. Despite the dreadful weather hundreds of people turned up at Starr’s Hotel to walk behind the white carriage, drawn by four white horses, following a route that ended with the cortege coming up St James’s Street to the church at Rock Gardens. Phil entered the church to a recording of himself singing one of his signature tunes, To All The Boys I Loved Before.

James was also busy, with others, organising the star-studied tribute show at The Brighton Dome DETAILS ANNOUNCED FOR PHIL STARR TRIBUTE ) The following artists have confirmed they will appear at the Phil Starr Tribute Show, When You Tell Me That You Love Me, to be staged at the Brighton Dome on Sunday, January 29 at 7.30pm. There will be further additions to the line up announced in next month’s Gscene. Drag With No Name, DE Experience, Katrina & The Boy, Lola Lasagne, Dave Lynn, Claudia Patrice, Topping & Butch, Lee Tracey, Maisie Trollette. This will be Katrina & The Boy’s first performance for over 10 years. They are reforming especially for the night. Paul O’Grady had hoped to appear but ITV are sending him to Beijing for six weeks and his availability dates now clash with the show. He will be sending a personal message on the night.

Hymns including All Things Bright And Beautiful, Amazing Grace and Jerusalem filled the church with a thousand voices. Personal tributes were delivered by David Raven, Brian Ralfe and actress June Brown. Lee Tracey, a friend for 40 years, delivered the eulogy. A further recording of Phil singing The Party’s Over brought the congregation to its feet in a moment of pure magic, with a standing ovation. Rarely has St Mary’s Church been full of so many people. Rarely has Brighton witnessed such an emotional send off. Phil left the church to the sounds of The Old Bazaar in Cairo. Close friends went to Woodvale Crematorium for the committal, where once again the perfect music

THT LAUNCH NEW CAMPAIGN ) THT will soon be launching the latest national sexual health campaign, aimed at reducing the time between infection and treatment for five of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). A series of adverts by THT featured ‘male

COUNT ME IN – GMFA’S LATEST HIV-PREVENTION CAMPAIGN ) Representatives from across the gay community, including the gay media, organisations, venue owners and well-known individuals, have pledged their support for GMFA’s new HIV-prevention campaign, Count Me In, which launched last month. With the message Together We Can Stop the Spread of HIV, the campaign is encouraging everyone who can impact on the epidemic, including individual gay men all across the UK, to play their part this World Aids Day and beyond. A host of gay publications, including Gscene, have already

Gscene 33 at that time. The 1980s and the Aids crisis changed all that and helpline operators had to be trained to respond to the demands that this threw up. As Switchboard developed so did our approach to helping the community. About 10 years ago we started to provide counselling services, offering one-to-one support in a safe environment, crucially provided by LGBT identified counsellors.

signed up to the campaign. As part of the campaign, GMFA is calling on gay men to help stop the spread of HIV in our community by agreeing to a five-point pledge: • I will know my HIV status. • I will not assume I know someone else’s HIV status. • I will take personal responsibility for using condoms. • I will value myself and my health. • I will stay informed about HIV and how it is spread. As Switchboard enters its 45th year in 2020 with a renewed sense of purpose, it´s interesting to look back to how things were 10 years ago. SWITCHBOARD LEAD TRUSTEE, MARK ELSWORTH, BELIEVES THAT AFTER 35 YEARS THERE’S STILL A NEED FOR LGBT SWITCHBOARD AND ITS VITAL WORK ) The year has seen LGBT Switchboard celebrate its 35th birthday and it’s been another year of triumph and challenge for us. Perhaps our greatest triumph came when our float, a giant birthday cake, won the prize for best float in the Pride parade. As ever, challenges have been around funding. This will be our biggest challenge going ahead, along with how we make Switchboard relevant to 2011 and beyond. The Lavender Line was one of the early helplines aimed at supporting gay men and women and took calls mostly about social events and the few pubs and clubs around

When I look ahead, I can see that the landscape in which we operate is changing quickly and we have to be able to respond to these changes. The main challenge we face is securing our future. We have been fortunate to have worked in partnership with Brighton & Hove City Council and the PCT, who have been funding and supporting us for some time, but we have to accept that we are moving into a different financial climate, and have to become more adaptable to what may lie ahead. We continue to work with the community and the businesses that serve it. Sometimes the future can appear scary and we all face changes. I’m confident, though, that Switchboard has the expertise, the dedication and the support to meet these changes. Here’s to another 35 years.

December 2015 PRIDE SURVEY REVEALS HUGE FINANCIAL BENEFITS TO THE CITY ) Last month, Brighton Pride conducted an online public survey with almost 3,000 people taking part. Pride 2015, recognised as the most successful Brighton Pride event ever, brought records crowds to the city in August, raised £100,000 for local good causes, and gave local hotels, restaurants and bars a bumper pay-day. Headline findings include: • Over 60% of visitors to Pride came from outside the city; a large percentage arriving by train; • 90% of respondents felt the Festival was safer and 77% felt the Village Party was safer since it was ticketed; • Almost one-third of the visitors to Pride chose to stay in hotel or B&B accommodation; • Two-thirds of respondents said they visited restaurants in Brighton, while 41% went shopping during their stay and a large amount said they visited attractions such as the Brighton Pier, Brighton Wheel and Royal Pavilion; • 73% preferred this year’s Parade route with 90% feeling there was a good mix between community and commercial entries; • At the Pride Festival Community Fundraiser on Preston Park, the most popular area was the Main Stage followed closely by the Dance and Cabaret Tents; • 87% felt there was a good diversity of entertainment on offer with 84% feeling it was good value for money.

Based on the average spend of respondents, Brighton Pride conservatively estimate at least £18m of revenue was generated across the city during the Pride weekend by those purchasing tickets for a Pride event. This does not take into account those visitors that came to the city just to watch the free Parade and then went off to eat or shop. Paul Kemp, Pride Director, said: “While the survey is not comprehensive it provides an excellent snapshot of the benefits of Brighton Pride to businesses in the city. Over the next year Pride will be developing improved feedback and statistics for all their events and the impact of Pride on the city.” NEW GAY RUGBY CLUB FOR BRIGHTON & HOVE While it feels as though the Sea Serpents have been with us forever, it turns out that it´s only five years since their first training session. ) The first training session took place for the

Brighton & Hove Sea Serpents Rugby Club on Sunday, November 22 in Queen’s Park. The new inclusive rugby club was set up primarily for gay, bisexual and transgender men to learn and enjoy the sport. Over 25 men came to the session, some with either past experience of rugby, league or union, others with no experience at all. Byron Todd, who played rugby for 11 years for the Kings Cross Steelers RFC, took the session. The aim of the first session was to give new club members a sense of being part of a team, so the lighthearted warm-up included some throwing practice to help people learn their team-mates’ names as well as the usual jogging and stretching exercises. This was followed by some passing practice, a game of touch rugby and finally the best of three tugs of war. After two hours everyone went to the Setting Sun bar in Windmill Street to chat through the day and get to know each other better. Brighton Sauna also provided us with a centrefold to make Christmas 2015 a very special one!

34 Gscene

"If you’re fleeing from a state where the law does not allow you to express your identity, you’re unlikely to arrive with a suitcase full of photographs or love letters as proof of past same-sex relationships”

A Safer Haven?

Peter Markham, a writer and correspondent for, on why LGBTQ+ asylum seekers in the UK and Europe are not being believed. ) One of the biggest stories on Brighton’s

doorstep this year has been the plight of migrants trying to cross the channel in order to reach the UK. People who have often endured massive trauma are risking their lives to get to what they hope will be a better place. PETER MARKHAM

Among those who arrive in the UK and the rest of Europe are asylum seekers who have been persecuted1 because of their Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity (SOGI). Some come from countries where the law offers them no protection and threatens them with death by stoning for simply being who they are. Researchers in Brighton have made some alarming discoveries about how such people are treated once they reach Europe. An investigation conducted by the University of Sussex2 discovered that around one in three of those who seek asylum on the grounds of sexual orientation are having their claims rejected because officials say they simply don’t believe them. In the UK, this is a ‘good fit’ with the government’s hostile environment policy on immigration. Claimants wanting to eventually seek British citizenship3 may find it impossible to produce any evidence at all to support their applications. If you’re fleeing from a state

where the law does not allow you to express your identity, you’re unlikely to arrive with a suitcase full of photographs or love letters as proof of past same-sex relationships, for example. When an assertion that you wish to identify as gay or trans is not believed, then a situation which may already feel like a living nightmare of anxiety and fear is suddenly made even worse, if that’s possible. The University of Sussex’s research also found that claimants were given an unfair share of the responsibility to come up with proof which could substantiate their cases. International refugee law requires that evidence-gathering is the equal obligation of applicants and those deciding their claims. It was found that immigration officials often did not set out with an open mind when they talked to applicants but sat impassively waiting to be convinced. The team who conducted the research believe that the default position should be belief in the accounts of claimants about who they are and what has happened to them. The stories of some are heartbreaking. Take the experiences of a woman who fled an African state which offers no protection to gay people. She says she feared for her life when found by police in bed with another woman. This is a person who suffered at the hands of an abusive husband after a forced marriage and was raped by two men who said they wanted to ‘straighten her out’. In the UK, the same woman faced an intrusive and distressing seven-hour grilling by a UK Home Office official. At one point it was put to her that since arriving in the UK there had been nothing to stop her from having lesbian relationships and so why hadn’t she taken up the opportunity? Her explanation was that she was still too frightened to open up to others and had not yet shaken off the stigma of being a gay woman. Having to prove something so personal as your sexual identity to a stranger in a foreign country is in itself a potential trauma. There is also something very unfair about comparing

the emotional welfare of those who have been unable to express themselves openly in their own countries against that of people who’ve grown up in the West. The fact is that claimants are having their applications for asylum binned because they are unable to come up with sufficient emotive language or thoughts about what made them realise they were gay or trans in the first place. How cases can be decided was starkly revealed last year when an immigration tribunal judge rejected one man’s claim in part because he didn’t think he had a gay enough ‘demeanour’. This was in apparent contrast to a witness who ‘wore lipstick‘ and who the judge saw fit to acknowledge as gay. And just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, according to research carried out by Stonewall4, some asylum seekers experience violence and abuse because of their sexual orientation or gender identity while they are in UK ‘holding centres’, either from other detainees or staff. Stonewall found that trans asylum seekers were particularly vulnerable, often unable to continue their transition or held in the wrong detention centres for their gender. The UK has dismissed thousands of asylum claims from LGBTQ+ people who originate from countries where being gay is criminalised. When your identity is forensically picked over and then disbelieved, unbearable psychological strain follows for those who may face violence or death if they return to their home countries, just because of who they are. The UK government and other European countries seem to be turning their backs on some of those who most need their help. Rejecting claims based on SOGI appears to be a quick and easy win for a Home Office hellbent on reducing the number of immigrants entering the country. All it has to do is say: “We don’t believe you.” Peter Markham is a writer and correspondent for, which raises awareness about migrant injustices and news around the world.

Links 1: 2: 3: 4: no_safe_refuge.pdf

Gscene 35

“Our education system continues to have an overemphasis on biological essentialism, which belittles many LGBTQ+ identities, but particularly the ace community” the executive director of Asexual Outreach, a non-profit organisation which organises Ace Week every year. They shared their thoughts with us:

(A)sex(ual) education: the need for an ace-inclusive curriculum Rachel Badham explores an area of sexuality that’s mainly overlooked in education ) Despite everything that has happened in

2020, one of the most positive outcomes from this year is that it is the first in which LGBTQ+ inclusive education has become compulsory for UK schools. After Stonewall campaigned for a more inclusive curriculum for over a decade, topics such as consent, pornography and LGBTQ+ rights will be taught in classrooms, with Mo Wiltshire, Stonewall Director of Education and Youth, saying the alterations will be “life changing” and will hopefully create a more accepting environment for young queer people (1). Schools will also be expected to improve support networks for LGBTQ+ students and those that fail to do so risk being marked down by Ofsted inspectors. Another amendment to school curricula means sex education will include discussions of LGBTQ+ relationships and identities. As a pansexual woman, I was thrilled to hear this news; when I was at school, we were taught very little about anything outside the realm of heteronormativity, and consequently it was much harder for my teenage self to accept my sexuality. But while the changes are certainly a vast improvement that should be celebrated, there is still a gap in our education system that needs to be addressed. I’ve recently been watching popular Netflix show Sex Education, and I found one particularly profound scene to be the interaction between sex therapist Jean and student Florence, who thinks she “might be broken” as she says: “I don’t want to have sex at all, ever, with anyone.” Florence had never heard of asexuality before, which Jean in turn explains to her and emphasises the validity of. This made it apparent to me how sex is viewed as an absolute necessity and continues to be portrayed as such in our school curricula, thus erasing ace identities and placing those young people in a similar situation to my teenage self – unable to accept or even comprehend their identity. Our education system continues to have an overemphasis on biological essentialism,

which belittles many LGBTQ+ identities, but particularly the ace community. Another reminder of the need for greater acknowledgement of the ace community was October’s Ace Week; an international celebration of the community dedicated to busting myths and spreading messages of solidarity and acceptance. According to an Ace Week official: “An asexual person experiences little to no sexual attraction and/ or sexual desire. Our community uses the word ace to encompass anyone who fits within the spectrum of asexuality.” But, much like Florence, young people are rarely taught the definition of asexuality or aromanticism, let alone learning about the broad spectrum of ace identities. The good news is that Ace Week says acceptance of the community is continuing to grow: “The ace community has made significant headway over the years. Asexual representation in mainstream media continues to improve, major LGBTQ+ organisations now acknowledge and include us, and ace community groups have sprouted up and flourished in cities around the world.” To coincide with Ace Week, Federica La Marca wrote a BBC article (2) about ace representation in the media, saying asexual representation has greatly improved in recent years and can be seen in shows such as BoJack Horseman and Sex Education. However, they highlighted: “Asexuality representation is still trailing behind other LGBTQ+ groups.” Similarly, Ace Week says: “Though we’ve much to celebrate, the fight for visibility and acceptance is still ongoing. Ace identities are often overlooked or misunderstood, and many aces still grow up not realising that asexuality is an option.” Young ace people are not growing up in a society that frequently represents people like them in the media, and are not receiving fully inclusive education despite changes to the national curriculum; an issue which school boards need to address. Brian Langevin is

“Despite advancements in LGBTQ+ inclusion in the UK school curriculum, asexuality remains largely ignored and forgotten in school education. Unless teachers are given clear and comprehensive education around asexuality, they often feel under-equipped to address the topic, they may fail to grasp the importance of teaching their students about asexuality, and many won’t even know that asexuality exists. “Most contemporary sex education frames sexual activity and marriage as inevitable life events, and these assumptions that are baked into the relationship and sex education curriculum often leave ace students feeling broken, isolated and ashamed of who they are. Being told by teachers that ‘one day, you’ll want to have sex’ can feel at odds with the experiences of ace students, and because asexuality is rarely named, ace youth often grow up unaware that their experiences are normal. Although community and resources for ace youth are available, many face years of confusion and isolation before discovering their identity and community.” Langevin suggests creating more inclusive school environments would be a lifeline for young ace people and would improve acceptance of the community: “Some schools have already made significant improvements by consulting and partnering with local ace communities to create an inclusive school environment. Including asexuality in LGBTQ+ education, involving ace students in LGBTQ+ clubs, and celebrating events like Ace Week are all steps that schools can take to improve the wellbeing of their ace students.” The new curriculum will hopefully bring about great benefits for young LGBTQ+ people, but it cannot be completely effective until it is made ace inclusive. Young ace people need to know that their identity is valid and that begins with education. To quote Sex Education’s Jean, “sex doesn’t make us whole”, so the belief that it is should be re-evaluated. 1: “We finally have an LGBT-inclusive curriculum – now teachers must be supported to implement it” - Mo Wiltshire, i News, 1 September 2020 2: “We’ve come a long way from ‘asexuality cures’ but mainstream media must do more” - Federica La Marca, BBC - The Social, 21 October 2020 D For more info and resources, visit:

36 Gscene

The changing representation of HIV and Aids in film and TV Frances Hubbard, who volunteers with More To Me Than HIV, has been looking at the changing faces of HIV and Aids in Hollywood and British film and television But first, a bit of context. The religious revival and conservatism that marked mainstream American and British society during the 1980s was not only a reaction against the gains won by second-wave feminism, but also to the flourishing of the lesbian and gay liberation movements during the same period. When the Aids epidemic hit in the early 1980s, right-wing moralists and religious extremists had all the ammunition they needed to launch an attack against those groups they deemed ‘disreputable’.


) Gregg Araki’s self-proclaimed ‘irresponsible movie’, The Living End (1992), is angry and confrontational, but also darkly humorous. It was, and continues to be, a polarising film even within the queer community. Whatever your take on its power to provoke, it was a milestone of New Queer Cinema and is impressive on numerous counts.

The film follows two HIV+ gay lovers who reject victimhood and embark on a lawless road trip. Having just received his devastating diagnosis from a callous doctor, film critic Jon (Craig Gilmore) picks up dangerous and charismatic drifter Luke (Mike Dytri), who persuades him to hit the road after killing a cop, declaring “we’ve got nothing to lose. We can say F*** work, f*** the system, f*** everything … We’re totally free; we can do whatever the f*** we want to do”. This theme, established in the opening sequence as Luke graffitis ‘f*** the world’, continues throughout to the closing dedication to “the hundreds of thousands who’ve died and the hundreds of thousands more who will die because of a big White House full of republican f***heads’æ In another scene, Luke suggests that they “go to Washington and blow Bush’s

By acknowledging the homophobia and outright failure to confront the epidemic (by both the Reagan and Bush Sr administrations) so directly, the film channels the legitimate anger, frustration and hopelessness felt by queer people at the time. This made it a powerful piece of social commentary while offering (for some) a refreshing antidote to the representation of HIV+ gay men as tragic victims. Through its black humour and celebration of the couple’s nihilistic freedom, it somehow transcends the pervading sense of doom that HIV+ people faced. Written in 1988, Araki explained that the film came from “a very dark, personal place,” when feelings of dread and insecurity loomed over gay, bi and queer men, irrespective of their status. Made with a low budget and minimal crew, Araki was the writer, director, camera operator and editor. While this kind of ‘guerrilla’ filmmaking produces an amateurish aesthetic, it reflects Araki’s knowledge and love of cinematic style and genre. For the knowing spectator, its form and content pay homage to auteurs like Jean-Luc Godard, Andy Warhol and John Waters. It also reworks established generic conventions and cultural expectations to make its political point. As a road movie peppered with screwball comedy, it follows in the grand tradition of classics like They Live By Night (1948) and Bonnie & Clyde (1967), and was even dubbed by critics as the ‘gay Thelma & Louise.’ However, unlike in these films (spoiler alert), our protagonists don’t die at the end, subverting the couple-on-the-run genre as well as the expectation that an HIV diagnosis inevitably ends in death. Instead, an ambiguous ending shows the outlaw couple on a beach at sunset, offering hope that life with HIV can go on. Even more impressive is the film’s daring representation of gay male sexuality, which stands in stark contrast to the majority of early years HIV/Aids films, which were largely sanitised for mainstream audiences. The Living End is much more realistic and quite explicit for the time, with Luke’s smouldering sexuality, S&M, barebacking, and erotic asphyxiation, it’s clearly a queer film made by a queer director for a queer audience. The film has been criticised for perpetuating cinematic stereotypes of the mad, bad and dangerous queer psychopath, and for being misogynistic and anti-lesbian. Not only is Luke a mentally unstable killer who lures Jon into a twisted and violent relationship that culminates

To watch for free on YouTube, visit: www. ) Fatal Love: The Alison Gertz Story (1992), directed by Tom McLoughlin, is one of only a few films about a heterosexual woman with Aids. Based on the true story of Aids activist Alison (Ali) Gertz, it’s an unremarkable madefor-television biopic starring Molly Ringwald. Yet despite its many failings, the film attempts to challenge the dominant perception of Aids as solely a ‘gay disease’. FATAL LOVE

What eventually became known as Aids (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) was initially labelled GRID (gay-related immune deficiency). As a result, the earliest representations of Aids in TV news programmes focused almost exclusively on gay men, and shortly thereafter intravenous drug users, as ‘guilty villains’ in the emergent crisis, with a visual emphasis on emaciated individuals covered with Kaposi’s sarcoma lesions.

brains out … or better yet, we can hold him at gunpoint, inject him with a syringeful of our blood. How much do you want a bet they’d have a magic cure by tomorrow?”.

in rape, there are two comedic psycho-killer lesbians, Daisy and Fern, and Jon’s straight ‘fag hag’, Darcy, who is obsessed with her best friend. Whether you consider these representations irreverent or offensive is a matter of personal opinion. However ‘knowing’ they may be, they came at a time when antiqueer sentiment was on the rise, which perhaps explains why Araki subtitled his film “an irresponsible movie”, and why he’s considered such a challenging artist.

At age 16, New York City socialite Ali had a one-night stand with a Studio 54 bartender and unknowingly contracted HIV. Six years later, her persistent flu-like symptoms were diagnosed as PCP, the pneumonia associated with Aids. With the best treatment available and loving and supportive parents, Ali recovered enough to campaign and was the first American woman to go public about her status. In a 1989 New York Times interview she explains: “All the Aids articles are about homosexuals or poor people on drugs, and unfortunately a lot of people just flip by them. They think it doesn’t apply to them. They can’t turn the page on me. I could be one of them, or their daughter. They have to deal with this. I want to talk to these kids who think they’re immortal. I want to tell them: I’m heterosexual, and it took only one time for me.” Ali appeared on television chat shows and toured schools and universities to talk about Aids and the importance of safe sex. She and her parents established the Concerned Parents for AIDS Research (CPFA) and after her death in 1992, three friends co-founded Love Heals: The Alison Gertz Foundation for AIDS Education, which is the largest provider of HIV prevention and sexual education for young people in New York City schools. Fatal Love aired on US TV four months before Ali died aged 26. At its best, it explores the fears, isolation, prejudice and exhaustion

Gscene 37 people with Aids faced. Harrowing hospital scenes show Ali being subjected to exhaustive tests because the family doctor doesn’t consider Aids until everything else is ruled out. This exposes the prevailing belief within the medical establishment (and the general public), that women don’t get Aids, and especially not through heterosexual sex. In another scene a nurse is afraid to touch Ali, highlighting the stigma that permeated the healthcare system, with accounts of Aids patients being isolated at their last stages of life, treated by reluctant healthcare professionals in layers of protective uniform. Of course, there were also many who cared for and treated Aids patients with respect and compassion. Other common misconceptions are shown when Ali’s close friend recoils after drinking from the same glass, and her boyfriend frantically scrubs himself clean after they have safe sex. Where the film falls short is in the simplistic suggestion that there are ‘nice girls’ like Ali who don’t deserve Aids, and the ‘other sort’ who somehow do. Gertz was an acceptable face of Aids: a monogamous, heterosexual, upper middle-class white woman. All we learn about the bartender who infected her is that he was bisexual and is dead. He is the dangerous, guilty, deviant ‘Other’. This idea of ‘sexual deviants’ is reinforced when Ali’s gay best friend, Peter, talks about his friends who’ve died from Aids and how, despite his negative status and safe sex practices, he is terrified of contracting Aids, implying that it’s a forgone conclusion that if you’re a gay man, you’ll get Aids. So even though the film counters how Aids had been portrayed up to this point, it can’t resist including a few gays, as if you can’t possibly make a film about Aids without them, which undermines the potential to change the perception of Aids as a ‘gay plague’. To watch (a very poor-quality recording), visit: ) Ask people to list the films they know about HIV/Aids and most will mention Philadelphia (1993), directed by Jonathan Demme. A successful gay lawyer, Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks), is fired for ‘incompetence’ when the real reason is because he has Aids. Andrew hires Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), an AfricanAmerican, initially homophobic, ‘ambulancechasing’ lawyer, to represent him in a wrongful termination lawsuit. The film centres on this

trial and the relationship that develops between Andrew and Joe, introducing the issue of discrimination based on sexual orientation and HIV status in the workplace. Philadelphia was the first all-star cast, Oscarwinning box office hit viewed by a much wider general public than any preceding films, effectively challenging discrimination and generating compassion rather than contempt for a gay man with Aids. Gary Pargeter, Lunch Positive service manager, said: “At a time when there was so much HIV stigma, often conflated with homophobia, I was really fearful of being at an HIV film in a mainstream cinema. For me it was one of the first environments where the ‘general public’ were gathered and HIV, more starkly Aids, was being explored. I was overwhelmed by the empathy that could be felt in the room watching the film, at times you could have heard a pin drop. Another example of how prejudice needn’t be the norm.” Philadelphia was one of the most successful films of 1993, with Hanks winning an Oscar for Best Actor, and Bruce Springsteen’s Streets of Philadelphia winning Best Original Song. In his acceptance speech, Hanks paid tribute to his gay drama teacher and Aids victims, while Springsteen spoke of music bringing people together, “tak[ing] the edge off the fear and allow[ing] us to recognise each other through our veil of differences”. The power of two major (heterosexual) stars speaking out in support of Aids victims and LGBTQ+ rights on such a platform in 1994, when there was still so much fear and ignorance around HIV and Aids, can’t be underestimated. In a 1994 Rolling Stone interview, Demme says his friend’s HIV diagnosis was the incentive for Philadelphia and he “wanted to reach people who don’t know people with Aids, who look down on people with Aids”. Demme explains how the initial scripts (written by openly gay scriptwriter Ron Nyswaner), were deliberately toned down to reach America’s heartland, to people who regarded homosexuality as unnatural, morally sinful, and whose terror of Aids was eclipsed only by their lack of understanding.


Like the assumed audience, Joe is initially reluctant to take on the case of a gay man with Aids because of his own homophobia. In one courtroom scene he says: “Let’s talk about what this case is really all about, the general public’s hatred, our loathing, our fear of homosexuals.” His journey of recoiling from Andrew to becoming his friend and ally works to take the audience from fear to compassion and from stigma to empathy. Casting the likeable Hanks in a safe (court room) genre was an excellent tactic in terms of eliciting compassion. As was casting Washington, Hollywood’s leading black star, to bring in an audience who may not otherwise have gone to see a film about a white gay man with Aids. Philadelphia undoubtedly played a part in changing mainstream attitudes towards gay men and Aids, but by pandering to middle America it’s a sanitised representation. And once again Aids activism is depicted through the lens of

a white male hero, ignoring the central role played by women and queers of colour. The only time we see actual gay men is in the party scene, where we catch an uncredited glimpse of Quentin Crisp and Michael Callen, singer, songwriter, author and early Aids activist, who performs Mr Sandman with The Flirtations. Demme did make a conscious decision to use people directly affected by the virus by casting over 50 extras with HIV and Aids, but they are safely in the background. In a scathing review in The Los Angeles Times, playwright and gay activist Larry Kramer wrote: “Philadelphia doesn’t have anything to do with the Aids I know, or with the gay world I know. It doesn’t bear any truthful resemblance to the life, world, and universe I live in.” One of the main criticisms of the film is its avoidance of gay male sexuality. Other than a slow dance at the party, there’s nothing to suggest that Andrew and Miguel (Antonio Banderas) are lifelong partners. Even in the final moments before he dies, all we see is Miguel kissing Andrew’s fingers and holding his hand. Demme’s justification was that he “didn’t want to risk knocking our audience back 20 feet with images they’re not prepared to see”. A stark reminder of where we were in 1994. Everybody knew it was about a gay man with Aids, but any reference to that was carefully avoided in the promotion, emphasising instead human rights and the battle between Andrew and the law firm. Another criticism was of its rose-tinted view of Andrew and his loving and supportive family, when the reality was that few people with Aids at that time were so fortunate. His character is so squeaky clean, viewers are encouraged to think that he doesn’t ‘deserve’ his Aids, where a more overtly gay and flawed character would. Watch Tom Hanks and Bruce Springsteen’s Oscar acceptance speeches: watch?v=bBuDMEpUc8k and com/watch?v=QYG3oigQDzc

More info ) This edited extract is from an ongoing series of posts by Frances Hubbard on the More To Me Than HIV Facebook page. To read further posts, visit: Other HIV/Aids-themed TV, documentaries and films: An Early Frost (1985), Over Our Dead Bodies (1991), And the Band Played On (1993), Zero Patience (1993), Blue (1993), The Heart of the Matter (1994), Jeffrey (1995), Kids (1995), It’s My Party (1996), All About My Mother (1999), Angels in America (2003), Precious (2009), Vito (2011), We Were Here (2011), How to Survive a Plague (2012), United in Anger: A History of ACT UP (2012), Dallas Buyers Club (2013), The Normal Heart (2014). ) For more info on More To Me Than HIV, visit: http://

please wear your mask

Stop Covid



please wear your mask

Stop Covid


Wear your mask with Pride! ) Brighton & Hove City Council’s new Covid-19 public health

awareness campaign is all about real Brighton people, from all communities in the city. The campaign, which captures the flair of Ebony Rose Dark, Tarik Elmoutawakil and Lola Lasagne, will light up digital bus stops, social media and poster sites around the city in December, bringing warmth and humour to people in these uncertain times. Ebony Rose Dark said: “I was very happy to do this campaign as I know how hard they have worked together with the general public to keep the city safe, which is important for someone like myself who is in the moderate category due to my disability, race and medical complexities. It slightly puts my mind at ease to know people around me are taking this seriously and so they will wear a face mask.”

Thank you for giving me space

Lola Lasagne said: “I was so pleased to be asked to do this. Having just celebrated 22 years as a Brighton resident, it’s an honour to be asked to represent the city. It helps to keep people safe and people have been able to make wearing masks fun by buying and designing their own styles. It’s another representation of how diverse our city is. “On a personal note the scene I work in is in danger of disappearing, and if we work together we have a chance of emerging the other side of this quicker and in a position to socialise with each other as we’ve been able to do before. It’s a simple message to press home to everyone – wear your mask. And if I can look this good you can too!” Tarik Elmoutawakil said: “Wearing a face mask has been proven to be an effective way to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. I don’t tend to wear things that I haven’t had a choice in (I’ve never liked uniforms that you can’t at least customise), so I realised early on during the first wave of the pandemic that I would need to find masks that I actually enjoy wearing. I found a burlesque performer who (like many creatives out of work) started to make and sell face masks in a range of styles and fabric. Her design also used elastic that goes around the back of the head rather than looping around the ears. This was been especially helpful to me as I wear hearing aids and the ‘round the ear’ masks tend to pull my hearing-aids out, and they hurt my ears too! If you are struggling to wear a mask, or they remind you of hospitals etc, I highly recommend getting masks that express your personality and that feel comfortable for you to wear. And get a few so that you can wash them.”

Stop Covid

#WeAreBrightonAndHove Thanks to Ebony Rose Dark

Tarik Elmoutawakil


Miss Lola Lasagne

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Amazin meets US president elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill

Gscene 39

when Amazin discovered someone she could aspire to. “He couldn’t be more far removed from who I am and the community, but he showed me how to celebrate your difference and that person was Arnold Schwarzenegger. “No one could pronounce his name, funny accent, came from a far away place, looked physically very different, but found a way to feel celebrated and loved. Arnold oozed so much confidence regardless of what people said to him.” She realised then body-building was her path, her way of escaping and a potential platform to make an impact on the world.

Amazing Amazin!

Amazin LeThi speaks to Sam Harman about their defining life moments

) Amazin LeThi’s myriad professional

accomplishments are awe-inspiring. The LGBTQ+ advocate began her sports career as a weight lifter, which led to her becoming a natural competitive bodybuilder and published fitness author for Livestrong. Not only is she listed in the 2019 Australian Pride Power list and the Out 100 list, she is also the first Asian LGBTQ+ sports champion ambassador at Stonewall. The road to success and accepting who she was was a perilous one – as a transracial adoptee, growing up in an all-white homophobic Australian community, she was subjected to bullying and outcast by peers from an early age. The first defining moment of her life took place at just seven years old. She recalls: “My teacher made me stand up in front of the

entire class of 30 other kids, I was the only Asian child, and said, ‘This is what failure looks like, this girl will fail and if she becomes anything she’ll be a potato peeler”. Everyone laughed, including the teacher.” Having no friends, Amazin used sports to escape the cruelty of the playground where she felt unsafe, hoping she’d be celebrated there. But once again, she was confronted with another example of how badly Asian children were treated, “the stereotype that Asian people are slow and not really designed for sports and also being LGBTQ+, I could never see a possibility of coming out, I always had a life where I had to hide so much.” She started body-building from the age of six, initially training alone at home – although she admits she had no idea what she was doing, “I didn’t have to interact with anyone and it helped me build the confidence and the self-worth that I needed, because I had very low self esteem, I hated being Asian, I hated being LGBTQ+ because I just had no positive references.” At age 10, she started going to an all-male gym to continue weight training. Being the only girl, she came up against misogyny and sexually inappropriate comments, however this wasn’t a deterrent. “I was breaking down the stereotype of Asian women, I wasn’t this Geisha, submissive, quiet child, I was this Asian kid that loved weight training, the sport gave me all this confidence and unique skills, it made me stand my ground in this unpleasant anti-LGBTQ+ space.” The second defining moment of her life came

As a teenager Amazin still struggled with her identity and had yet to encounter another LGBTQ+ person. The weight from the sporting world that coming out wasn’t an option crushed her spirit, so she left Australia and headed to Europe. This is when the trauma she experienced as a young person manifested itself as addiction – falling in with the wrong crowd, Amazin’s relentless partying led to her spiralling out of control into debt and eventually homelessness. She found herself living on the streets for many years on the margins of society where she was dismissed daily by the guilty flick of a stranger’s eye. “I suffered from severe depression and was constantly suicidal. I think you get to the point where you just kind of give up on life and you can’t understand the point of waking up anymore.” Exhausted and broken, she slept for two days straight in a hostel. Waking up on the third day, she curled up into a foetal position on the granite floor and sobbed uncontrollably for hours. It was then the third defining moment of her life occurred – she recalls wondering what had become of her. “I remembered the moment when my teacher told me to stand up and told everyone that this is what failure looked like and I thought this would be my greatest failure if I continued and it just gave me that kick that I needed.” On December 9, Amazin is taking part in the #youngerme campaign for LGBTQ+ charity Just Like Us, which champions LGBTQ+ equality. It’s the first time the charity has used an East Asian person in a campaign. I asked her what she’d say now to her childhood self, the little girl who tried so hard not to cry when standing up in class: “Very simply – you’re going to be OK, you are enough and you always have been enough and in a world that doesn’t see our difference, know that your difference is celebrated and loved.” For more info:

40 Gscene




Chris Jepson, photographer extraordinaire, talks to Jaq Bayles about his ongoing project and how it has forged connections within the community ) As Chris Jepson lays down his camera

following a (physically distanced, of course) photoshoot for his ongoing Identity Project, he confesses to having 40,013 photographs in his iPhone’s Recents folder. That might seem like pretty promiscuous snappery, but Chris sees subjects worth capturing everywhere in the world around him and has been making a living from pictures (and reportage – he also does PR for Brighton & Hove Pride) for the past 20 years, since swapping a career in chemistry for a life in design.

But the coronavirus pandemic pulled the rug out from under his regular gigs covering the scene for QX, Boyz and others. With bars shut and no scene to speak of, there was nothing for him to cover and the magazines pretty much went into hibernation, so he found himself looking back through his archive with a view to “doing a 20 years retrospective of London clubland”, which will be a work in progress.

As a gay man in his 40s Steve is in peak physical condition, helped in no small part by the fact he owns and runs a successful independent personal training company. He also has a stoma and has become an advocate for awareness of the condition as well as the stigma and mental health issues associated with it.

Given the proliferation of shots on his phone, that must have appeared a Herculean task, but viewing his portfolio from an objective position led Chris to a realisation that in turn would result in his latest venture. “I noticed that most of what I was shooting was being done to a brief – the club and the hot shirtless guy. It was not a very representative portrait of the community,” says Chris. He determined then that he wanted to do something that was “much more inclusive and. Diverse, and anybody who wanted to be photographed, if I could, I would do it”. He adds that he didn’t know where the Identity Project would start and where it would finish, but he has his sights set on portraits of some 200 people who identify as being on the LGBTQ+ spectrum and has already collected more than half of those. “I am 52 now so I’m getting to a point where I want to do something for me for a change. I hadn’t done much personal work photographically.”

“The images are presented on a neutral background in black and white giving a result that is more objective but at the same time inclusive, in that each one, devoid of its surroundings, becomes a component part of a larger story of community. Like a brick in a wall or a jigsaw piece. So a barber in Brazil is sitting in the same light as a peer in the House of Lords in London, half a world away from each other but connected.” He adds that “all families have disagreements and moments of discord, and the rainbow family is no exception, but I am hoping this Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, or ‘Lady Phyll’, is executive director of the Kaleidoscope Trust, a non-profit organisation that campaigns for the human rights of LGBTQ+ people in countries where they are discriminated against, and a co-founder of UK Black Pride, Europe's largest celebration for LGBTQ people of African, Asian, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Latin American descent.

A Matter of Identity

On his Identity Project website, Chris explains: “From religious to secular, young to old, performer to military, this series of black and white portraits presents the diverse faces of LGBTQ+ people from myriad walks of life across the globe, challenging stereotypes, reframing assumptions and dispelling the myths of perceived identity.

Gscene 41 Lizzie Lawton, or Zee, is a 17-year-old A Level student studying History, English, and Performing Arts and came out to her family and friends just a few months before taking part in this project.

continued with a few in Florida and further shoots in Brighton, London, Liverpool, Manchester and other UK locations.

Jason Jones is an LGBTQ+ human rights defender originally from Trinidad & Tobago and has lived and worked in Britain for over 30 years. He refers to himself as being “Tringlish” and as a person of colour.

It has also turned out to be very diverse, with about a third of those involved coming from BAME communities, says Chris, while some subjects have disabilities and the age range runs from a gender-fluid 11-year-old from Cambridge to Brighton’s Oldest Gay in the Village, 96-year-old George Montague. And the project has uncovered some truly amazing stories, such as that of James Lyndsay, best known for running the Vauxhall Tavern, who was dismissed from the Royal Navy and lost a high-profile job as a managing director for being gay. He had never before told that story in public and as a result was contacted by three other ex-Navy people who had suffered similar discrimination.

project will show that our rich diversity is our greatest strength”. The set-up Chris uses comprises the white background, two lights, two brollies, two tripods, and a Nikon D850 DSLR camera, all of which pack into a couple of small bags, so he can take it anywhere and give everyone the same treatment. “I didn’t want people to get distracted by ‘ Ooh that’s a nice red shirt’, or how lovely the living room or office is. If you do Zoom now you’re looking at what’s on the walls behind them. I want people to be forced to look at the subject. Deep down everybody loves black and white because we see so much colour every day, it makes you stop and look. It’s a leveller.” The plan is for the project to be global – it began before the coronavirus pandemic and started in Paris, where six people posed, and

Activist Jason Jones brought a case to the High Court of Trinidad & Tobago to overturn the ‘buggery laws’ left over from British colonial rule, while Barrister Dr S Chelvan’s work has helped change the way LGBTQ+ people’s asylum cases are assessed by the Home Office and United Nations. “Some of the stories would not otherwise have come out,” says Chris of the rich tapestry of lives he has interwoven, and he has bigger plans for the collection. While many of the pictures can already be seen online, there are plans to exhibit them physically, and thanks to an artists’ grant from the Pride Cultural Development Fund, the first event is lined up for Brighton’s Jubilee Library as part of Pride Month 2021. There have also been offers of exhibition space in London – one at Heaven nightclub in the heart of the LGBTQ+ community – and in Paris.

“I’m thinking of maybe 30 or 40 prints in A1 size all shown together to dispel the preconceptions of what is LGBTQ+. We are everything and everyone.” And he plans to accompany each exhibition with a zine. “I want to tell more stories than can go on a gallery wall. Hopefully there will be a book in the future.” A bit about Chris Jepson “I am a really shy person unless I am behind a camera and that’s my excuse to talk to people. Shooting in clubs I have to talk to the DJ and other people. Everything I do is with people. Bowls of fruit, still life, doesn’t interest me.” Chris got into photography “by accident”. After gaining a degree, then researching for four years for a PHD, both in chemistry, he worked for Glaxo Smith Kline developing new

He moved back to a little flat in London’s East End and signed up to a part-time graphics course in Tower Hamlets, dancing in clubs to pay the bills. From there he worked for a temp agency: “Every week was a different job. One week I’d be designing insurance forms in Edenbridge, the next an Indian food and drink magazine in Chelsea.” Then a company asked him to stay on and he ended up in a Shoreditch graphic design studio for five years before setting up on his own.

More Info ) To take part in the Identity Project: ) For more info on Chris Jepson: Dr Chelvan has an international reputation as an expert in the field of human rights and his work has helped change the way LGBTQ+ people’s asylum cases are assessed by the Home Office and United Nations.

Born in 1923, George has packed a lot into his life including National Service during WW2, a marriage and children, senior commissioner for disabled boys in the scout Association and campaigning for, and receiving, an apology from the UK government for the historic criminal convictions of gay men. He is now known as The Oldest Gay in The Village!

Chris plans for each exhibition to include 50% local people and 50% from other areas to show the connections that arise between them, but the full collection of shots will never appear together at an exhibition.

drugs and organic compounds. “But I got a bit bored and left – I decided a white lab coat in Herts wasn’t for me.”

42 Gscene LUCY KIRK

PAGE’S PAGES Book Reviews by Eric Page

struggle to prioritise. It’s queer self-care, allowing us to access the wise Unicorn best friend and guaranteed to bring a smile and give us a fierce one liner to get us through a difficult day. ) Ruby Rare (author), Sofie Birkin (illus) Sex Ed: A Guide for Adults (www.wordery. com, £12.99, published by Bloomsbury).


) Sarah Tighe-Ford Red Kate: A Tale of Lesbian Piracy (www. dp/B08524WK9Y). This is a superb book from a local author – a deep swaggering dive into the world of lesbian piracy and living outside the law in the 18th-century Caribbean. Our protagonist, Red Kate, is captain of The Challenge. Her sometimes lover and rival, Captain Morgan, ploughs the same seas, but where Kate commands respect and loyalty in her crew, Morgan is brutal and the worst type of thief, taking anything and anyone she wants. Tighe-Ford brings the sea-faring dangerous world of buccaneering privateers and their outlaw vessels vividly to life – you can feel the sting of the waves and tang of the salt in the prose and with a strong focus on our protagonist as her heart and authority are challenged by her conflicted feelings for Morgan. The narrative thumps along, with revenge, sea battles, piracy and fights galore, viewed from a personal perspective and the impacts they deliver to people. It’s rich storytelling of life aboard an outlawed ship, wrapping up interactions of crew and their hopes and asking why people run to such places, and what they find when they stay.

A smashing festive selection of books for all budgets – from stocking fillers to bodice rippers, superheroes to sex manuals, coming-out to teenage love, a book is always the perfect present. - Eric ) Lucy Kirk (illus) Eat My Glitter Dust: Positive Words for Self-Care (, £7.99, published by LOM ART). This sweet and beautifully illustrated little hardback is packed with motivating quotes and life advice, covering topics including love, friendship, work, and the allimportant chill time many folks


Red Kate is a love story, a love of adventure, from women lovers exploring a wild world where defining yourself and being who you want and need to be can be yours for the taking, if you’re brave enough or lucky enough to fall in with a protective crew. TigheFord has introduced us to the utterly charming and rapier sharpwitted Captain Kate, swashbuckling her way across the Caribbean, parrying the blows of outrageous fortune, seeking a true direction, suffering setback and tragedy but ultimately learning to keep her crew safe, and fighting to become captain of her own heart. This is a heart-warming adventure book that takes in the lives of the strong independent women of the coarse 18th-century wild West Indies, who find love, compassion and adventure among themselves, on their own hard-won terms. Glorious!

Sex educator and body-positivity advocate Ruby Rare has condensed years of work into this wonderfully illustrated thick hardback, perfect for the bedside for a lot of reasons. Sex Ed is a practical and fun guide to sex. Rare brings her no-nonsense but caring approach to erotic information, dispelling insecurities with frank suggestions on how best to connect with our lovers and communicate effectively about

sexual needs, how the brain is the most important sex organ all the way down to the ins and outs of physical squishy sex and

all the various combinations of bodies we can generate. Although not specifically aimed at an LGBTQ+ audience, the book is focused more on us as sensual beings, rather than the labels people may put on our sexual tastes, so reaches across with shared experience. The content and voluptuous illustrations are explicit and the author takes us though how we can become healthier, happier lovers and enjoy our arousals, and what gets us there, completely. ) Sunil Gupta Lovers: Ten Years On (, £35).

Sunil Gupta’s Lovers: Ten Years On is a series of black and white portraits of gay couples from London taken in the 1980s. Some in the Tate. After Gupta’s own 10-year relationship ended, he decided to document the

a lesbian, and learning what that meant, the potential and finally the pulsing rich brilliance of being authentically herself. The book is breathtaking, emotional and at its core honest, candid and human. One of the best coming out books I’ve read, and presented as a graphic novel, giving it a charm all of its own. Lesbian or not you’ll see your own coming out reflected here, echoed back in its painful, awful glory, but confirming the commonality of experience. The Times I Knew I Was Gay reminds us that sexuality is not often determined by falling in love with others, but by coming to terms with oneself; that people must come out not just once but again and again and the awesome power that bestows on us. ) TJ Klune The Extraordinaries (, £16.99, published by Hodder). TJ KLUNE

long-term gay relationships he encountered and the changing sensibilities of the social environment he found himself part of. This beautifully crafted book, which is an artwork in itself, captures a real feeling of the domestic sensibilities of being a gay man in the 1980s, and being in a partnership while exploring the complex relationships a photographer has with his subjects. ) Alice Oseman Nick and Charlie (, £6.99, published by Harper Collins). Nick and Charlie are the perfect young gay couple – they’re inseparable. But Nick is leaving for university, and Charlie will be left behind. This sweet, short book asks the questions that everyone else is asking: are they staying together? Does absence makes the heart grow fonder? With two great characters from her graphic novel Heartstopper and plenty of illustrations scattered throughout

the book, Oseman explores the questions our protagonists ask themselves as the time to say goodbye gets inevitably closer. Tender and insecure, wondering whether their love is strong enough to survive being apart. Because everyone knows that first loves rarely last forever. Oseman’s book is a delight, exploring more of the lives of the Heartstoppers folk (the Solitaire Series) in her fresh, cosy and tender explorations of teenage angsty love. Charming young person’s fiction. ) Eleanor Crewes The Times I Knew I Was Gay (www.wordery. com, £14.99, published by Virago).

This is a classic, a joyful coming out story packed with humour, charm and tinged with a little regret, but the kind that comes from experience and understanding your own journey. Crewes takes us on a richly illustrated, no-holdsbarred retrospective of her own experience of recognising she was

Klune introduces us to a completely queer central cast and, apart from a few clunky remarks from a generally well-meaning police officer father, queer love and desire gets to breathe on the page. It’s a refreshing superpower narrative, no metaphors here. We follow protagonist Nick Bell as he explores his emerging queerness with his best friend, Seth, in its most awkward, nerdy, fanficinspired throes, wrestling with


his infatuation, struggling with idolisation and authentic, genuine attraction. Nick is crushing on Shadow Star, whose timely intervention saves him from aggression. But can a superhero only truly love another superhero? Nick decides he needs to find out and become an Extra-Ordinary person of super attributes himself, setting out on a journey filled with adventure and secrets as he’s offered the opportunity to become a superhero. Klune gives us a feel-good, super-camp, funny narrative with queerness utterly centred and it’s great fun. There are some reservations about the do-gooder cop father, which just feels a little too soft-focus Disney in today’s climate of American police brutality, but overall the book succeeds with showing us Nick working to understand the grey zones of good versus evil and what needs to be done to protect those you love. Obviously setting itself up for a run of sequels, but that’s dealt with in a smart and interesting way. A great read for a young LGBTQ+ person.


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some countries sales of merchandise well exceed what the band get paid for the show, but they are expecting Brexit will see a tax introduced on that. There are also likely to be restrictions or, at the very least, a lot more red tape to deal with when it comes to transporting equipment. While ARXX have the sort of contacts that mean they could probably borrow gear, they feel for others in a less fortunate position. “What’s sad is that for bands starting out it will be less accessible,” says Hanni. “Bands make so much more money in Europe. We have had probably the most fun when on tour in Europe and it’s a shame other bands may not have that.”

ARXX and answered This Brighton alt-rock gal pal duo has been attracting a lot of music industry attention of late. Jaq Bayles finds out why

“garage-rock meets country-punk” when the duo headlined its Girls to the Front show at London’s Shacklewell Arms.

surface, Brighton-based duo ARXX were halfway through a tour. They had spent a week and a half in Germany, but “saw the signs and thought best get home”. And they had recently supported The Hold Steady at a packed 800-capacity venue, The Bush in London, so it’s no wonder they were “pretty gutted”, in the words of vocalist and guitarist Hanni Pidduck.

Indeed, the music mag is quite the fan of ARXX, naming them one of its 100 Essential New Artists for 2020 – a highlight of their career so far, resulting in nearly a million streams on Spotify – and in November it added their latest single, Call Me Crazy, to its New Bangers playlist.

“For us the live part of being a musician is the best part. Touring is such an incredible way to travel, we have been to places we would never have been.”

The band gained the attention of the publication after responding to a call out from Dream Wife when they played the Concorde 2 for bands who were female or non-binary – ARXX’s favourite type of show.

Drummer Clara Townsend fleshes out the details of having stayed in an anarchistic co-operative trailer park in Munich and Hanni chips back in with an anecdote about playing a gig in a venue next to slaughterhouse – which had to end at midnight when the slaughter began. The chemistry between the two is palpable when they’re quizzed about their work – there are times one will jump in and finish the other’s sentence and their anecdotes are punctuated by bursts of laughter as they anticipate the outcome of the tale. That sort of closeness comes from having played together for four years, touring extensively in the UK and Europe and appealing to a broad spectrum of fans with their own brand of what NME referred to as

The pair are pretty hot right now – Steve Lamacq played Call Me Crazy on BBC Radio 6 Music, describing it as a “serenading pop song”, which, say ARXX, “made all our pop dreams come true”. That tune was in contrast to their biggest hit to date, the rocky Iron Lung, while Clara promises the next release will “sit in the middle”. It will be hotly anticipated by fans and the music industry in general alike, and ARXX can’t wait to get performing again, but in the meantime those tunes will be cooking and you can get involved in their podcast, ARXX Us Anything, by sending your questions to



“We really love it when we play a show that’s a full female or non-binary line-up,” says Hanni. “There’s a real sense of community, everyone cares about it.”

Hanni: “The reason I play electric guitar is Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who was a queer black woman who used to lead her congregation in church with an electric guitar.”

Clara adds: “The Dream Wife audience was good – female, queer, alt rock/punk. We used to play quite a lot of shows where we would be the only females on the line-up and people didn’t know what to expect. I quite like to convert them – we are very loud.”

Clara: “I started playing drums because of Cherisse Osei. She was the first female drummer I saw on stage and she used to play for Mika, who I was obsessed with. I am a massive P!nk fan too.”

Sadly, the current situation has silenced them when it comes to live shows. The tour they had lined up for next February looks likely to have to be rescheduled and, of course the last one was interrupted, the pandemic derailing their plans to tour in Europe as much as they could before Brexit struck.


More info f t@arxxband

They are particular fans of playing in Germany, where the audience turnout is always good, no matter how tiny the town, but they don’t yet know what Brexit will mean. Hanni says: “Right now it feels like a big deal to play in Europe, but it’s very accessible. You can just chuck your kit in a car and go.” But Brexit might put paid to some of the lucrative opportunities European touring can offer. For ARXX, “merch is our lifeblood” – in


) As the coronavirus pandemic began to

But the duo aren’t ones to give in to adversity and they have secured studio space in which they will be “cooking up new tunes” (adhering to social distancing guidelines) and a new single is promised for February.

Gscene 45 has encouraged us to call rather than text, to check in on a more regular basis, to appreciate the value of those friendships that we sometimes take for granted, and to let the ones we love know that we do, then some of this agony has been worth it.

Literary life, cabaret & lockdown

Alex Klineberg catches up with performer Ian Elmslie who keeps the spirit of cabaret alive in his music ) Ian Elmslie is a cabaret performer who’s

been around the block, several times. He chronicled his life and career in his racy 2017 memoir, A Marvellous Party – fittingly named after a Noël Coward song. We caught up with him to discuss his latest projects. How’s life been treating you since becoming an author in 2017? I titled the book A Marvellous Party because that is how my life had felt up to that point. Little did I know the party was only just getting started. Like all the best adventures, the new journey began with a beautiful accident. In 2018, a passing visit to a Brighton record shop led to an invitation to present an evening of stories from the book, which I embellished with songs from the LGBTQ+ catalogue, The following year I curated Torchbearer with the singer Graham J for a short season of performances. The show featured two of my original compositions, both of which were well received and this sparked the idea for a musical, which I completed and recorded this year. When will we be able to see it? Old Boyfriends is no longer a musical. There are no chandeliers, no barricades, no dazzling special effects, no chorus lines dripping in bugle beads. No set, no plot, nothing at all. So I’ve chosen to call it a revue or, pardon the pun, a review of past relationships, an occasionally ticklish but heartfelt reflection on the eclectic selection of gentlemen who entered my life stage right and exited stage wrong, but all of whom have left an indelible impression on my memory. The double CD, one piano and voice, one with arrangements,

will be released on Valentine’s Day 2021, and there will hopefully be some intimate shows in suitable venues, pandemic permitting. Tell us about the song I Miss Him, and why you chose to donate funds from it to gay men’s health project, GMFA. The song was written when the show was still in the original concept of a musical, complete with a cast of characters. I was working along the lines of a Boys in the Band scenario, an established group of gay men, relaxing after dinner and reminiscing about the loves of their lives. I decided that one character would have lost his partner, to an unspecified illness, and had never found anyone to ever replace him. The song is a remembrance, an observation of the permanence of grief, how the smallest of moments can spark the most powerful memories. Like too many in our community, I have lost both lovers and friends to HIV/Aids, and the song is a tribute to them. It made absolute sense to donate all artist royalties from sales and streams to GMFA, in order to support their magnificent and ongoing work. How have you been coping with lockdown? Some hours were better than others. I live and work alone, so I am used to the solitude, which I can often enjoy, and also to my own company, of which I got utterly fed up. But my time as a teacher kicked in, and I embraced the concept of a timetable. A daily 10km walk, piano practice, writing, reading, tending the garden, and working my way through the inevitable box sets. Like everyone, I missed the company of the ones I love, but if this whole nightmare

What is your process for writing a song? With this project, it all started with a character. Who is this person, what do we need to know about them? Next comes the scenario. What is the situation? What is the story? Then I try to find the most appropriate musical style with which to tell the tale. I have always enjoyed jumping round the genres, and this collection veers from jazz to country and western, from Irish ballad to vaudeville, bar-room blues to disco, whatever worked best to complement the narrative. Each song is based on a real person, which made writing the lyric far easier than finding some hitherto unexplored way to tell a tale of love on the rocks. As I am still in touch with some of the subjects of the songs, I was intrigued to hear their response. All good so far. Who are your musical heroes? Music has been at the very core of my life from the earliest age. As a pre-pubescent child, I loved the harmonies of The Osmonds, The Carpenters and The Manhattan Transfer. David Bowie took the throne in my teens, and has stayed there ever since, never failing to thrill me with his refusal to stay creatively static, even when the results were less than successful. Musical theatre, classical music and jazz, all have a huge place in my heart. Joni Mitchell never fails to make me wonder why I even attempt to compose anything. George Michael, Rufus Wainwright, John Grant, great gay singer songwriters all. Music will always be my constant companion, my inspiration, my challenge, my comfort and my joy.

More info Connect with Ian: t @ianelmslie62 I Miss Him will be available to hear and download on Dec 1 on YouTube and all major streaming channels. Old Boyfriends will be released on Valentine’s Day 2021. A Marvellous Party is available to purchase from the Ignite Books website:

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) Cheryl Frances-Hoad The Whole Earth Dances (Champs Hill CHRCD152). I’ve been following composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s (b.1980) work for a while now, and it was a great delight to explore her latest disc


the end, the cello cries out with a strange vibrating screech, and then an unsettling calm is reached at the end, with occasional stabs from the piano punctuating an exhausted cello solo. Then for

all the works for cello and piano composed by brother and sister Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) and Fanny Mendelssohn (18051847). Many of the pieces were written with their cellist younger brother, Paul. Felix’s first sonata has a real youthful urgency in the opening movement. Walker manages to produce a bright tone despite the driving repeated chords and thick textures of the

well, although there could be a little more tempo differentiation between the faster variations. Turning to sister Fanny, we have a Fantasia, with a beautifully romantic melody presented first on the piano, with the cello emerging from a low accompaniment to take over the melody. There is plenty of opportunity for Marosi to sing here, particularly in the slower arioso section. Similarly, in her capriccio, lyrical melodies are passed between the instruments, with the piano leading off on a faster central section, with emphatic fanfare-like statements from the cello. Once again, the movement winds down to a quiet finish. We return to Felix for the remainder of the recording, with his Sonata No. 2. The two players bound into the opening movement, with its striding cello theme and joyful energy and drive throughout. In the finale, Walker and Marosi never let up with the driving rhythmic energy, right to the dramatic explosive climax, before the dynamics drop down, leaving quiet, rippling exchanges to end. ) Louis Lortie Louis Lortie plays Chopin: Vol 6 (Chandos CHAN20117). In Louis Lortie’s sixth volume of Chopin works, we have the Hommage à Mozart Op. 2, the two Op. 49 Polonaises and the Fantasie Op. 49, interspersed with sixteen of the Mazurkas. Lortie’s Mazurkas are full of character, with great attention to articulation and dynamics. For example, from the Op. 6 set, he gives the first

a wonderful halting lilt, and its falling chromatic progressions have a silky darkness. In the Op. 24

set, there’s a lyrical, more waltzlike affair to begin with, and the third has pauses in almost every phrase, which Lortie shapes and times with delicate poise. The Hommage à Mozart opens with a lengthy rhapsodic introduction, with hints of Mozart’s theme, Là ci darem la mano, and Lortie delivers this with suitable grandeur and virtuosic command, followed by a brilliant set of variations, which Lortie dashes off with impressive ease. He exploits the dark drama of the operatic adagio variation to the full, with an electric alla polacca to finish. The two Polonaises, Op. 49, especially the first, the Military, are by nature emphatic and weighty, but this LOUIS LORTIE

of chamber works, entitled The Whole Earth Dances. The title work was commissioned by The Schubert Ensemble, inspired by walking in her local park, but also by the importance of taking notice of nature in a time when it is under such threat. Full of long sustained string chords, with delicate piano commentary in places, the movement alternates between lively, spiky ‘thistles’ and gentler, unfurling ‘ferns’. And there is hope in the positively consonant, sudden C major ending. There’s so much on this disc for varied chamber forces, and many different performers, it’s hard to do justice here to it all. There is lyricism as well as dancing canons and rhythmic complexity in Cloud Movements for clarinet, violin and piano, and in The Prophecy, anguish is taken to a new level in an incredibly virtuosic piece, and Rebecca Gilliver (cello) and Sophia Rahman (piano) give an outstanding performance. Towards

something completely different – Game On, a work for piano and Commodore 64 computer. Here, Frances-Hoad takes sounds from a 1987 puzzle game, X0R, and uses these to create a fascinating soundworld, exploring game theory, robots taking over the world, and ultimately, destruction of humanity – so not a cheery piece! There is a chilling sense of panic here, despite the slightly comic origins of a 1980s gaming computer. The collection ends with a work for string quartet, My Day in Hell, inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy. Here, the angular melodic material, downward slides and richly dissonant chords definitely create a sense of being trapped in circles within circles. I’m always struck in Frances-Hoad’s music by how, despite some common devices, such as the contrast between slow, long chords and spikier rhythmic movement, with great use of pregnant pauses, the atmospheres evoked are incredibly varied and individual to each piece. I’ve focused on the music itself here, but all the performers deserve praise here – there is some challenging music, and all the players do great justice to FrancesHoad’s fascinating and often virtuosic demands. ) Joël Marosi & Esther Walker Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn (First Hand Records FHR81). Joël Marosi (cello) and Esther Walker (piano) have brought together

piano part, and Marosi brings out the yearning as well as a virtuosic display to finish. He really gets the chance to sing out in the second movement’s lyrical central section, and both players produce the requisite drama in the finale, and manage the piece’s quiet ending, with delicate lyricism from the cello over a gently rippling piano. The Variations Concertantes draw on a humble, hymn-like tune, and encompass eight variations, and the two players here exploit their moments



can be easily overdone in the first, rendering it a shouty affair. Here, Lortie certainly provides weight, but with precise articulation and full use of the range of dynamics he avoids the bombast. The second is full of brooding darkness, and Lortie brings this out, as well as the wistful melancholy of the lyrical central section. Fantasie Op. 49 concludes the disc, with its funereal march launching an explosion of improvisatory explorations. Lortie is definitely let loose here, although despite the extremes of virtuosity, that sense of subtle changing moods is never lost.

More info For more reviews, comment and events, visit: n nicks-classical-notes.blogspot. T @nickb86uk E

Gscene 47



This month I’m concentrating on one very local arts venue, which is presenting five artists whose differing approaches allow each body of work to come to life, due to the giant leaps between them.




Brighton, ) Until Sunday, December 13, the Platform Graduate Award 2020 will be viewable online at platform-graduate-award-2020/. This is the first time the gallery is taking part in the Award, which was established in 2012 and is designed by Contemporary Visual Arts Network South East to support emerging graduate artistic talent, and to help further their practice following graduation. Phoenix has selected five artists: Working within the expanded field of sculpture, Rachel Atkinson’s practice consists of large-scale props, video, photography, and poetry. Utilising these media, along with characters and props, she sets a scene of fakery and strangeness to explore concepts of audience expectations, illusion, the screen, theatre, and colour. Peruvian artist Ursula Vargas has been researching pre-Colombian art and how this historical aspect of her culture is reflected in her contemporary practice. Witnessing how human exploitation of natural resources contributes to environmental problems and climate change has guided her choice of traditional painting media with found supports such as discarded cardboard boxes. Charlotte Guérard’s abstract narratives are a conversation between forms and colour. Charlotte’s 2020 alternative Graduate show was presented as a virtual exhibition entitled Is This A First and featured works produced before and after lockdown. She was nominated for the Freelands Painting Prize 2020 and published in the a-n review earlier this year. Through the medium of photography, Leanne Jones-Starr explores the connection between memories, the uncanny and intuition. Her most recent collection of works is a collection entitled Isolation Garden which consists of five digital images taken during lockdown. They are inspired by the confinement of the garden with each being individually titled at the time in which they were taken. Jessica Davis expresses the effects of how both animals and humans have clashed as they expand more into each other’s territory. To express this through art she uses a range of mediums, such as drawing, painting, taxidermy, sculpture, and photography. Growing up, Jessica saw the effects that humanity has on wildlife around us. Having her own difficulties with special needs, she feels that she has a deeper connection with nature and animals.


) MINO CINELU/NILS PETTER MOLVÆR SulaMadiana (Modern Recordings). Nordic ambient trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær comes from the Norwegian island of Sula, former Miles Davis and Weather Report percussionist Mino Cinélu’s father is from Martinique, or Madiana as it was originally known, hence this set’s collective title. This merging of cold and hot is a magical meeting, in which African rhythms and pattering tabla beats combine with slow, open and synthesized trumpet lines, Molvær in his best Jon Hassell Fourth World mode. Atmospheric sound effects waft in and out alongside random vocal interjections. It is all a bit like listening in to a multilingual conversation without quite understanding the different languages spoken, but loving the experience all the same. Unexpectedly good, and quite beguiling. COSMIC VIBRATIONS ft. DWIGHT TRIBLE Pathways & Passages (Spiritmuse). The six-piece Cosmic Vibrations have been gathered together by in-demand vocalist Dwight Trible. The band has been performing steadily over the last three years, building a reputation in Los Angeles and further afield for its mesmerising performances. Pathways & Passages is the first time that their transcendental, spiritual music has been recorded. It is a genre-defying amalgamation of divine vocals, soul-stirring jazz and healing poetry, delivered with a rich tapestry of African, Mesoamerican, and indigenous North American percussion and instrumentation. Improvisation forms the core of this set, but rhythm and groove are never absent. Throughout, Trible’s vocals dominate, but the real power comes from the three percussionists, who produce interweaving lines of frothing intensity, the bass and other instruments weaving all around them. It all makes for a heady brew, and a fascinating one too. COLIN STEELE QUARTET Joni (Marina). Joni Mitchell’s beautiful songs long ago made their way into the jazz repertoire, helped to some extent by her own adoption of jazz around the time of the Hejira and Mingus sets in the late 1970s. Many musicians have covered her songs over the years: now it is the turn of Scottish trumpeter Colin Steele. Steele certainly knows his Joni, although he obviously favours the early folk material rather than the later experimental works. However, while he cherishes the songs, he doesn’t do much with them except largely follow the melody note for note, his trumpet standing in for Joni’s voice. Pianist Dave Milligan is more adventurous, as are bassist Calum Gourlay and drummer Alyn Cosker, but overall it seems the band is too overawed by the original material to improvise much, despite their obvious skills. Of course, for hardcore Joni fans, this set is just perfect, but while it is enjoyable, many of us will consider it a missed opportunity.

48 Gscene


) Unseen Bits: The Naked Rugby Players 2021 Calendar, £10 with percentage of profit to inclusive rugby teams, incl Brighton & Hove Sea Serpents, and Balls to Cancer (The Naked Rugby Players,

) My Genderation T-shirt, £20; Trans Is Beautiful poster, £20 with all profits going back into making more trans positive content that educates and celebrates trans lives. (My Genderation, collection/my-genderation/) ) Trans Lives Matter candle, £12.99 with 50% going to Mermaids (Flaming Crap,

) Brighton Rainbow Print, £18.99 with 50% going to Brighton Rainbow Fund (11 Rugby Road,

) Drag Queen Xmas Cards, £3 each (free P&P) with 50% going to Brighton Rainbow Fund (Fat Pigeon Art,


All funds after costs to Brighton Rainbow Fund. Order these items from: ) Stainless steel articulated keyring, £2.99 - order up to five for single P&P charge

) BBW 10th Anniversary cotton T-shirt, £20 available in six sizes from small to 3XXL

Gscene 49

SHOPPING With Michael Hootman

) LYNN + LUCY (BFI Blu-ray). Fyzal Boulifa’s debut feature focuses on a couple of white workingclass women (Roxanne Scrimshaw and Nichola Burley). Their friendship is tested when one of them is involved in a tragedy that could be a crime – whatever it is (and the film is ambiguous) the local community certainly acts as judge and jury. Boulifa directs with tight angles (it’s filmed in the ‘postage stamp’ academy ratio) and stylistically it’s closer to the hyper social realism of Andrea Arnold or Richard Billingham (Ray & Liz). These films are all somehow more persuasive than the default ‘gritty’ realism of, for example, Ken Loach. The leads give truly heartfelt performances in an impressive chamber piece. Boulifa is certainly a talent to look out for. ) MOTHRA (Eureka blu-ray). This strays far off the path of standard Japanese monster movies with a plot that seems to have been based on a dare. An evil showman mounts an expedition to a radioactive island with a stowaway comic reporter. There they find a couple of one-foot tall women who the entrepreneur tries to steal but is prevented from doing this by the natives – played by actors in blackface, but let’s not dwell on that – however, he gets the girls on a second attempt. He exhibits them to gawping crowds but the girls have some kind of psychic link with the eponymous flying monster which wreaks predictable havoc on a series of model ships, dams and buildings. So completely ludicrous, the film achieves a kind of perfection. I also have to admire the chutzpah of Eureka releasing it through its Masters of Cinema label. It might not have the poetic intensity of The Passion of Joan of Arc, the sophisticated cynicism of Ace in the Hole, or the cool metaphysics of La Notte, but by god it’s got a giant moth. ) PLAY FOR TODAY VOLUME ONE (BFI Blu-ray). The programme, which is usually cited as central to what we think of as the whole project of the BBC, makes it on to Blu-ray with mixed results. The Lie, written by Ingmar Bergman, has a couple (Frank Finlay and Gemma Jones) facing up to each other’s infidelity. Full of interesting writing – intriguingly a scene in which Collins is confronted by a co-worker is like a homage to Pinter – but in truth it’s a minor work. Shakespeare or Bust has three sitcom miners go on a pilgrimage to Stratford by barge to see Antony and Cleopatra. It seems to be free of any comedy though its very faint echo of A Canterbury Tale gives it a certain charm. Back of Beyond is quietly moving with a great performance from Rachel Roberts as a lonely woman living in a remote farmhouse who is befriended by a young girl. Passage to England is like the world’s slowest crime drama in which Colin Welland is persuaded to smuggle an Asian man and his sick father over to England for a bar of gold: it takes 80 minutes to get to its underwhelming twist. Welland is the writer of Your Man from Six Counties in which a boy, orphaned by an IRA bomb, goes to live in Eire. I think my lack of knowledge of the Troubles prevented me from getting the most out of it. Bernard Hill and Alison Steadman are having their first child in Our Flesh and Blood but I think my inability to watch more than 30 minutes before exasperated boredom kicked in is probably a fault of the writing. A Photograph is the joker in the pack: a weirdly compelling horror which, perhaps uniquely for Play for Today, seems to have been influenced by the work of Brit exploitation director Pete Walker. Apart from Back of Beyond, which looks great, the photography ranges from adequate to dingy – and two of the plays were shot on 1970s video – so a Blu-ray transfer seems rather pointless.

) Rainbow Vase, £24.99 (England at Home, 22b Ship Street, Brighton)

) 23 carat gold-plated stapler, £135 (Hold, 14 Bond Street, Brighton)

) Warhol Jigsaw, £12.99 (Pussy, 3a Kensington Gardens, Brighton)

) 2021 calendars, £25.95 (Prowler, 112-113 St James’s Street, Brighton, 01273 603813)

50 Gscene





) After my Jaq on the Box column from 2005 cropped up in Chris Gull’s raid of the archives last month, it occurred to me just how much has changed in the world of TV in 15 years. Back then I would have struggled to fill a page with commentary on shows featuring LGBTQ+ characters.

) Creeping quietly around, with just the rustling of tissue paper to betray my presence, I’ve dropped off the husband’s gifts. It’s hard getting a PlayStation in a stocking but I’ve managed it and have slipped back on to the sofa, toes cosy in my sheepskin slippers, sipping home-made sloe gin at 6am, peeping out in the dawn light over a city blanketed in glittery white snow. All is calm, all is white and, apart from the loud farts trumpeting out of the bedroom, parrup-pa-pa-pumm, it’s peace on earth. He sleeps above in deep and dreamless sleep. I turn the golden ring on my finger and smile warmly, giggle to myself, another unlikely event from this very different year.



But now… I’ve picked up on a plethora of series – mainly American or Canadian admittedly – that feature strong LGB and even T characters in prominent roles. Corrie’s Hayley cropped up in 1998, the first transgender character in a British soap, but she was portrayed by a cis actor, which has often been the case with trans characters.


While there’s still a long way to go to redress the balance of representation of trans and non-binary people on TV screens, there are at least now a handful of regular characters in popular series being portrayed by trans and non-binary actors. Orange is the New Black’s trans credit card fraudster inmate Sophia Burset is played by trans woman Laverne Cox, while in Good Girls, also on Netflix, 11-year-old Sadie, who transitions to Ben, is played by Isaiah Stannard, who was cast presenting as female, but came out as trans when he joined the show in 2018. Over on Sky Witness (don’t judge), 911-Lone Star features black transgender firefighter Paul Strickland, played by trans actor Brian Michael Smith. The original 911 features an ‘out’ black lesbian firefighter, Hen, bringing us nicely on to the roll call of my favourite TV lesbians du jour. I could bang on about Gentleman Jack, Killing Eve, Wentworth Prison and Orange, but you’ve probably already watched those, so here are a few top tips for anyone fancying a foray into the lesser-known lesbian/bisexual women realms governed by the remote control. COBIE SMULDERS AS DEX PARIOS

First up is Stumptown, starring Cobie Smulders as Dex Parios, an ex-Marine-turned PI struggling with PTSD. She is a tough-talking, wise-cracking, hard-drinking, gambling, uncompromising character who’s pretty fluid in her choice of bedmates.

Not a few of the shows I’ve found are based on some kind of law enforcer, the latest being Tommy, a procedural crime drama featuring Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie) as the eponymous first female chief of LAPD and an ‘out’ lesbian.


Still in LAPD land, LA’s Finest showcases female detective partners Syd Burnett (Gabrielle Union) and Nancy McKenna (Jessica Alba), the former a(nother) a tough-talking, wise-cracking bisexual… I never suggested any of these shows lacked clichés. Finally to the men (sorry boys), and my favourite gay man ever on TV, Schitt’s Creek’s David Rose, played by Daniel Levy, who cocreated the show. He manages to come across as both sweet and caustic – and has the most amusing wardrobe ever to grace a Canadian backwater. Schitt’s Creek is the best thing I’ve seen on Netflix all year… perhaps ever, and there are six seasons. Enjoy – I’m jealous.

We knew Xmas was going to end in tiers, Miss Rona is sticking around for a while yet, but we’re used to it. Life has become the size of a cosy village and, although the raging frustrations of our FOMO’d globe-trotting party animals are glowering like a cross between Mrs Danvers, Rebecca and Nurse Ratched, defeated behind the shuttered Manderley of Missed Things, we’ve decked the halls, and bowed the holly, fa la la la la la la la. I poke the embers of the fire, give the Ghost of Christmas Past the side eye as it lurches home from an all-night party, kilt askew, clutching a blow-up reindeer and a rather fetching gurning Venezuelan muscle boy, the remains of the sawn-up driftwood collapse in a sigh of ash and I pop the last chestnut on to roast. The house looks like Mr Dickens has been round, goose and all, and wrapped us up in pagan Yuletide joy. We’re staying home this year, first time ever we’ve both been together at home, not with the farflung folks in their ancestral villages deep in the mid bleak winter, performing the rituals of our youth, returning like swallows, westward leaning, still proceeding. We create our own rituals this year. A midnight walk along the Downs, stars glittering like the tears of orphans, earth stands hard as iron, our hearts almost worn out from worry. I made the wreath, it’s like a drag queen door knocker, lit up so it can be seen from space and so fat you need to turn sideways to get in and out the house, I added in a lot of holly, the berries redder than Lola’s lips, the green twisted thorns scratch at you like Jack Frost’s fingers, grasping from the door; but the Pando means we have few guests, at least inside. We share Mrs Cradock’s home-made PlumRum on the doorstop, sweet pies then mince off into the night. Bye, bye, lully lulay. Last Christmas I gave you my heart, but the very next day you gave it back, with gratitude but explaining you’re now a vegetarian and offal is off. Even traditional Welsh Boxing Day roasted hearts, stuffed with faggots and tiny onions, can be an unwanted gift. We’ve made a lot this year, pickles, preserves, gins and rums, no knitting, or crochet thank goodness, it never got that bad, we always had sex to fall back on! I’m the Mrs Rochester of Wrapping, with a resting Grinch face, clutching tiny silver scissors, rustling in the shadows. I can’t sleep, I’ve run out of things to do, but wait there’s Myrrh but I’m sleighed. The decanter glugs and I look the Ghost of Christmas Present directly in the eye and shrug. We clink schooners. O tidings of comfort and joy, the snuggle is real Dear Reader, may nothing ye despair, so be exquisite and never explain.

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I’ve now been involved with MindOut for over four years, first as a service user and then as a volunteer, and have had the opportunity to get involved in a wide range of things – from designing and delivering workshops to getting involved with a promotional film and podcast. The experience has given me a lot, not least a better understanding of myself and my health, and feeling much more connected with the LGBTQ+ community.

Joining MindOut’s peer support services Kerri F shares their experience of Work It Out – a peer support group for LGBTQ+ people juggling work and mental health ) Growing up, mental health was not something that was ever discussed or acknowledged in my family. There was a lot of underlying shame attached to it, and I often resorted to self-harm and manipulating my diet in unhealthy ways in order to feel in control and maintain ‘a stiff upper lip’. As I grew up these habits died down, but after a big shift in my family circumstances I struggled to cope. Work for me was the one area where I could see progress, and it formed an important part of my identity – so when I realised it was being affected by the downturn in my mental health, it finally prompted me to seek help.

“Having a dedicated space every week allows thoughts to be aired and feelings to be explored, without the danger of bottling it up and letting issues escalate.” Admitting you need help can be a big obstacle for many people – it was for me. However, once I had, there was then the problem of figuring out what exactly I needed, what was available, and how to go about getting it. I was reluctant to go to my doctor out of embarrassment but also fear of being diagnosed. When looking into less medical forms of support I found they were all in daytime, which clashed with work, or were too expensive, or were for more urgent needs. Finding the ad for MindOut’s Work It Out group was a game changer. Work It Out is a peer support group for people in paid employment who are also managing a mental health condition, facilitated by a member of staff. I remember meeting the facilitator for my initial assessment and just apologising and

crying throughout – I cried and apologised a lot back then! The same group meets weekly, with a check in and out for everybody, and space in the middle of each session for discussion based on people’s check ins. There are often shared themes and experiences that others can relate to, but with different viewpoints or self-management strategies, and it can be a great way for you to gain some insight into your own problems while discussing somebody else’s. How often do you get asked “How are you?” and have the opportunity to really answer that without the token response “Fine, thanks”? Having a dedicated space every week allows thoughts to be aired and feelings to be explored, without the danger of bottling it up and letting issues escalate. You check in with the group, but also with yourself. Being with the same small group over several weeks allows you to build up trust, and it continues to surprise me how effective this can be at helping people to open up about matters that they might not have ever discussed before. This peer support group is a safe space for you to be yourself, unjudged and unapologetic (as long as you stick to the group agreement which is drafted up together in week one). It’s liberating to find somewhere you feel welcomed, supported and – if ready – challenged. You don’t need to go through the process of coming out, explaining or apologising for yourself and then feeling vulnerable, as everyone there is in a similar boat; part of the same LGBTQ+ community and with lived experience of mental health issues. Group members describe Work It Out as “a lifeline, a saviour, the only thread that was keeping me going”, and that without this weekly check in their mental health problems would have worsened.

I have also been involved in helping to gather service user feedback and suggestions and I’ve been able to see how essential the wide range of support on offer at MindOut is to LGBTQ+ people of all ages, backgrounds and circumstances. I can say without exaggeration that this charity provides life changing support and experiences, and that our community is that much richer and stronger as a result. Kerri F

MindOut info MindOut offers a range of peer support groups, befriending, peer mentoring and advocacy, counselling and online support. Please see our website for more information. All MindOut services are confidential, nonjudgemental and impartial. All MindOut services are run by and for LGBTQ+ people with experience of mental health issues. In February, MindOut is offering a peer support group for LGBTQ+ people of colour, please contact us for more details. D N or call us on 01273 234839 D or email

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On the Road to Nowhere

Ayahuasca Told Me To Shut The F*ck Up!

) It’s almost Christmas so are we all feeling festive and thinking about holidays? We all need a break but in these very confusing times can we or should we? The answer is, quite simply, yes. Despite government warnings about foreign travel, you can go virtually anywhere, as long as you realise that on returning home you may have to isolate and if you can accept that there’s no problem. There will be medical checks before you travel and occasionally when you arrive.

) A few years ago I participated in an ayahuasca ceremony, which involved being together with an intentional ceremonial group over the course of many hours and imbibing an entheogenic concoction of the DMT containing leaves of a very particular shrub and the MAO inhibitor containing roots of a very specific vine.


The LGBTQ+ travel industry is estimated to be worth £1trillion a year, so it’s not surprising there are many companies specialising in holidays for us. They are all making ‘special offers’, just quite how ‘special’ is debateable. Out of Office (www.outofoffice. com) is one of the biggest UKbased LGBTQ+ companies with some very good offers. Frenchbased Gay Sejour ( has some great deals, mainly in France. Cinq&Sept (, French again, looks extremely good. Of course the US has quite a few gay travel companies including Gay Travel (, an Oregon-based outfit, which is one of the better ones. If sailing is your thing, with or without clothes, you should look at Everything to Sea (, not safe for work), which is US-based but specialises in the islands of the Far East, very exotic. Dutch company Gay Sail (, not safe for work) operates small boating trips mainly in the Adriatic, also offering totally naked trips. Canadian-based Out Adventures ( specialise in gay tours of Australia and New Zealand. Closer to home, Further Afield (www.furtherafield. com) is an LGBTQ+-owned agency that specialises in LGBTQ+-owned or LGBTQ+-friendly boutiquestyle self-catering cottages and apartments in the UK and across most of Europe, I have used them and they are extremely good. One of the best LGBTQ+-owned gîte-type restored monasteries is the Domaine de Monteils in southern France, near Montpelier, which has the wow factor. There are some incredible deals on the Maldives, most of the Greek Islands and the Canaries. You can check which country is on or off by visiting All the usual large companies, such as, Expedia, Secret Escapes, are working overtime to get you to part with some money. Basically the Foreign Commonwealth Development Office is advising against all unnecessary travel, you must check your insurance. Staying in the UK is a good plan, and there are some fantastic deals. Never accept the rates you see on websites, always ring the hotel and ask what their best price is, you may be surprised. Gatwick South Terminal is closed until next summer; the railway station is undergoing massive reconstruction. British Airways has moved to Heathrow but easyJet is still there. You shouldn’t be too concerned about your health on board an aircraft as most have installed new air filters and operate all the usual hygiene systems, so you can fly happy and safely. Have a Happy Christmas wherever you are.


Spiritually and psychologically it required an openness to the possibility that this so-called Grandmother Medicine – used over millennia by the indigenous peoples of South and Central America – might offer me some kind of healing communication from the world of plant intelligence. The following day I was a profoundly changed human being! The experience had been a surprisingly physical and pleasurable one. For hours on end my gut, heart and throat areas had undulated in gentle, rhythmical, sub-orgasmic pulsations causing me to chuckle and groan with a gleeful ecstasy. Visually I had been presented with kaleidoscopically morphing fractal imagery of cathedral columns, ornate archways, gargoyles, rainforest branches and lush leafy undergrowth. And while this rollercoaster intensity of sensations was buffeting me I was struck by how long-lived the plant-life has been on our planet, compared with the relatively newcomer mammalian life-form with its less experienced, arrogant, language-based intelligence. I was in awe of this opportunity to commune in a non-linguistic way with an ancient intelligence. An intelligence which had accompanied me throughout my life but to which I had hitherto been blind and deaf. Within a number of spiritual/Faerie communities, there is the oftrepeated axiom: ‘Separation is simply an illusion. In truth we are all one.’ Well, as I was being battered, shaken-and pleasured even by Grandmama, the awareness descended on me that for the vast majority of my life I had focused on firstly learning but then (from my 20s onwards) fastidiously teaching what I’d learned. As a young medic the career mantra back in the ’80s was: ‘See one. Do one. Teach one’. I subsequently became a practitioner and teacher of listening and counselling skills and then a junior doctor trainer and ultimately a senior doctor appraiser. During the course of my profound and extreme ayahuasca encounter, I witnessed myself attempting to register and remember what was happening so I’d be able to pass it all on... And so what was the big message transmission from the world of plant-life? It was this: “If you truly believe that ‘We are all one’ then you can set aside this teaching/preaching fetish you have cultivated over the years. “The extent to which you have the impulse to transmit verbally what you have learned is the extent to which you doubt the reality that is: THE INTERCONNECTIVITY OF ALL OF LIFE. “Know instead that knowing is enough. “Stop all your thinking, talking and teaching. “It’s time for you to FEEL your feelings “And for you to simply BE your joyful self. “That should be enough!” So at the tender age of 60, it’s probably high time for Gay Socrates to shut up and sign off – it’s been a total blast!

Gscene 53 populace to wedge his lying ass into the seat of power. What a foreseeable, avoidable, years, decades in the making from all denominations, mess. Who will save us from the international horrors of our collective doom? Who?

Craig’s Thoughts

This, Mary, is just the beginning... By Craig Hanlon-Smith @craigscontinuum ) And lo it came to pass that so embedded into our collective psyche was the miracle of the Christmas story, that not even the unexpected shenanigans of 2020 could put a stop to the impending arrival of baby Jesus. And so arrive he will to save mankind. I mean humankind of course. Silly me. ‘Man’ is, after all, cancelled. And before anyone gets their knickers or other non-gender specific underwear in a twist, don’t. Cancel culture is, after all, quite selective. We have not, for example, cancelled religious texts such as that on which this festive ditty is about to be based, and in which we witness the rape of 12-year-old girls, public stoning of women and the mass murder of babies. It is also a text that advocates, nay encourages, the practice of homosexuality and I quote: “Jesus said to Simon and Peter (nb: good Middle Eastern names) ‘cast aside your nets, come with me and let us fish for men’.” You can make this nonsense mean whatever you want it to, many do all over the world and most of them are exceedingly dangerous people. So pick your chin up off the floor or stuff a nutmeg flavoured Chupa Chups in the hole until I’ve finished. And cheer up, it’ll soon be Christmas. Our Mary had been having a time of it recently. Some months ago now she had awoken in the early hours to find a nongender specific individual in her room named Gabriel – don’t judge, this was pre-lockdown. Gabriel rabbited on for much of the night about the son of man or some such that we would never dare say now. Mary became so hot and flustered she feared she had contracted coronavirus, but it turns out she was now with child. This means pregnant in today’s language. Had Mary’s condition been discovered by her neighbours she would have been stoned to death in the market. While I’m sure you’ve seen many a stoned Mary at Christmas, that is not what we speak of here. Stoned to death. Amen. Joseph and his Mary were perturbed by much of this and insisted Mary had not yet been known to a man. In today’s language – she

hadn’t had sex with a biological man with a virile penis that works on demand. And don’t give me any diversity fertility clinic or alternative methods nonsense, it’s approx 200BC in Judea and it’s really hot. This Mary’s having a meltdown. Let us not judge our Mary for lying about the penetrative sex that she had clearly been having at least every other Tuesday. We’ve all been to that clinic. And guess what? They know you’re lying. And so they set out on their epic adventure to take part in a now legendary census. They could have saved themselves the 70 miles to Bethlehem on a donkey by using the postal system, but King Herod had spent months discrediting the service and stated repeatedly and without merit that it was not to be trusted. He even demanded that some postal boxes were closed and removed to stop the fraud. Of course, in this green and pleasant land we don’t remove postal boxes, we paint them gold if a local person wins something. Have you ever tried looking for one of these gold post boxes? Don’t. You can’t see them. There’s a reason they were red. And so off they set on their 70 miles. Seventy miles. Is it me, or in primary school did they make out it was so much longer than that? I’m certain Mary was up and down that school hall so many times we had to stick two extra verses on the end of Little Donkey. It’s no further than starting off in Southampton and winding up in Saltdean. It’s not that big a deal. Although best of… looking for wise men on those cliffs. Despite their desperation, Joseph and his Mary could not find suitable lodgings in which to lay their weary heads. It wasn’t so much a matter of ‘no room at the inn’ but that the inns were in lockdown by decree of another erratic honey monster who had managed to hoodwink enough of the

Cue abdominal agony from the fruit of thy womb, Lord Jesus. Technically Mary’s womb but let’s not argue with religion. Furthermore, the only reason this was going to hurt is because Eve ate the apple when God told her not to, so technically it is the fault of woman. These are not my words; they are from the Bible and religious text must be interpreted as a literal instruction or historical fact. See also Father Christmas. Look, let’s cut to the chase – the baby is in the manger, in modern language ‘trough’, and if you never went to that club in London Bridge, trust me it’s grim. This is not the start the angel Gabriel had predicted for baby Jesus, but you know what? Did you predict any of this when you were crawling on your hands and knees nursing a cheap prosecco hangover on January 1? No. That’s life. Jesus will cope, after all he’s about to get his very own musical and how many of you can say that about your lives? Picture the scene. The stable is empty bar a few pigs, sheep and chickens. There may be a horse and don’t forget the donkey but that’s knackered and is about to be shot. It feels like the UK will after a no/poor-deal Brexit on December 31 and anyone who hasn’t left doesn’t want to be here anyway, even Mary was dragged into that stable screaming. It’s horrid. The host of angels might as well not bother proclaiming any of it as they’re wearing facemasks and we can’t hear what they’re saying. Not to mention the socially distanced shepherds who are arguing over who can or can’t visit baby Jesus, and whether or not the rule of six applies in Bethlehem and is that different in Jerusalem? And will King Herod’s advisor be able to do what the trucking nora he wants despite a total lack of clarity he himself penned? Imagine Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (good traditional Middle Eastern names) having to write all that down. And as the close of another fine year approaches, should you find yourself despairing at the rise of the dogmatic sociopathic leader stamping his insistent foot like a troubled child who should know better, fear not. This is familiar territory. In response to the birth of baby Jesus, King Herod demanded that his soldiers kill all of the babies. Imagine that. “Go out and kill all of the babies.” This, Mary, is just the beginning. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

“What a foreseeable, avoidable, years, decades in the making from all denominations, mess. Who will save us from the international horrors of our collective doom? Who?”

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) I wondered to myself the other day why I feel more Christmassy this year. Usually at this time of year I’m already stressed with how I’m going to afford everything, and how I’m going to get around to visit everyone. Considering that this has been the most turbulent year most of us have ever lived through, with stress less so on thriving and being the best we can be, and simply being put on surviving, you would be forgiven for thinking that Christmas 2020 would be looking pretty damn bleak.

) I haven’t been away this year. Haven’t gotten on a plane. Haven’t travelled to far-off cities with their exotic weather and cheaper beer. I’ve not been able to upload holiday snaps to various social media sites and bask in the glory of being away while others aren’t. The furthest afield I’ve been is a day trip to London which was cool as I don’t get to go to the capital for any reason really so it was nice to mooch around and have a drink or three in Soho.

“I reckon I can give up a cheap flight to somewhere just a little bit warmer in favour of something closer to home, and closer to the people who need a little bit of extra kindness this year” Instead I’m finding myself getting excited when I see Christmas lights being put up, and last night being happy to be standing on my balcony on the first night of lockdown with a blanket around my shoulders watching the fireworks. And when I asked other people, it seems as a nation we have simply given up on thoughts of excess. Could it be that Christmas spirit could be a real thing?

I was due to go to France for 10 days with my mum, dad and brother but that got shelved as France got put on the travel ban list, which made it non-viable. I know that folks who work from home have been able to go away to travel ban hotspots and then self-isolate on their return because they’d be at home afterwards anyway. As I work for the minimum wage in a shop, I didn’t have that luxury unfortunately. Try as I might, I can’t sell things at the shop from my sofa. It did strike me as ironic with the travel bans that those who weren’t engaging with the public and putting themselves at risk on a daily basis were able to escape these shores, whereas those who do interact with the public couldn’t. Hey ho.

I remember when my family was on a mission to prove how big we could do Christmas when I was a kid. All 14 of us crammed on to a coach and over to Spain, where I had one of the worst Christmases of my life, not just because my family is a living nightmare, but because it just didn’t feel like Christmas and the gastric flu we all caught on the way back didn’t help. Going to another country to prove that we could be fancy too only left us feeling like something was missing. With us not being able to travel much of anywhere this year, or if we did manage to get a holiday in it was ruled by restrictions and safety concerns, it makes sense that the little bit of sparkle at the end of the year would feel more sentimental than usual. I’m not really one to get mushy, but this year has made me re-evaluate what’s important. At the start of the year I was set on getting away at the end of the year, but for a year when people have hardly left their house, I reckon I can give up a cheap flight to somewhere just a little bit warmer in favour of something closer to home, and closer to the people who need a little bit of extra kindness this year.

I’ve been travelling to France with my family since I was four years old. We used to go camping when I was younger and stay in various dubious hotels on the way down to the south of France. When we got there, I used to love to wander the campsite with a carry mat, find some French people playing boules (French bowls game) and just sit there and watch them. This started my deep love of peoplewatching, which endures to this day. There’s nothing I love more than sitting with a cuppa and a cake, watching the world go by. I tend to write down the things I see and put them in my blog: www. (shameless plug). But back to France! When we’re abroad we tend to do as little as possible. We’re a ‘sit in the sun for a bit, then read a book in the shade with a beer’ type of family. We don’t go far. We’ll mooch about a couple of towns, might have a meal out once or twice, but that’s it. So holidays for me are for sitting about relaxing with some form of alcohol readily available. None of this getting up, getting out, then visiting places and doing things. Oh no. I will swim if we’ve got a place with a

This year has been weird enough, so it stands to reason that Christmas will be equally as weird. Perhaps I’ll go to a creepy cottage and stare wistfully out of the window, in a house that looks like it should be on a biscuit tin, or perhaps I’ll just host Christmas here with my family – chosen and blood – and be grateful that we’re able to be together and trade awful cracker jokes. Holidays are great, and one day soon we’ll be able to travel without restriction, but in the meantime I’m happy to peel and roast the spuds myself.

pool. That’s the busiest I’ll get. I’ve had the typical gay holiday of Gran Canaria with beers, beaches and bunk ups. It’s not my natural habitat though. I prefer a hammock, a book and a small beer. You won’t see me then till pre-dinner drinks.

Gscene 55


The soundtrack of 2020. Rachel Badham sees out a rocky year by sharing her top tunes


) I don’t think there’s an LGBTQ+ pop fan who wouldn’t consider Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande’s Rain On Me as part of their playlist of the year. Gaga is openly bisexual and is known to be an advocate of equality for all, as seen in her popular LGBTQ+ anthem Born This Way. Grande is also an LGBTQ+ ally and I’ve been a fan of her music since her debut album Yours Truly. Besides the fact that Rain On Me is incredibly catchy and a return to Gaga’s pop roots, it

was also very motivational for me as I took up running. I feel 2020 is the first year I began to genuinely start looking after my body by regularly exercising and eating well; I’d dabbled in running before but always struggled with it and given up, but this year is when I decided to take it seriously, and Rain On Me was always on my running playlist. Although it’s probably not what Gaga meant, the line “I’d rather be dry but at least I’m alive” was very relatable when I was sweating through my clothes but trying to power through. ) Another queer artist who released some amazing music this year is Miley Cyrus; her single Midnight Sky is one of the best songs of her career. Miley has gotten a lot of stick throughout her career but I think her ability to continuously reinvent herself is admirable,




) Dedicated Side B by Carly Rae Jepsen came out in May and it massively improved my lockdown. Carly has a huge LGBTQ+ fanbase and has made some of the best pop music of the last decade. I saw her live in London last year and was lucky enough to meet her after the show which was definitely a high point of, well, my entire life. A standout song from her 2020 album is Solo; an upbeat synth-pop track about the importance of self-worth

between male and female pronouns. I think it also shows off Miley’s underrated vocal abilities and I love the dazzling music video which reminds me why she’s not only an amazing music artist but one of my fashion icons.

regardless of your relationship status. I was struggling with loneliness a lot at the beginning of 2020 and throughout lockdown so I would listen to Solo to remind me that not only are many others dealing with this issue, but that it’s possible to embrace aloneness.

) 2020 has been a strange year to say the least. The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on everyone and I think most people are fairly relieved that the year is coming to an end. However, I think it’s been an excellent year for music, particularly from queer artists. Music really helped to boost my spirits this year – through personal difficulties and lockdown – and it’s a reminder of all the good things that have happened over the last 12 months. ) Hayley Kiyoko, also known as Lesbian Jesus, released her single She in January, which definitely got my year off to a good start. I’ve been a fan of Hayley since I heard her song Girls like Girls in 2015, which was a pivotal moment in my journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance. To me, She encapsulates everything I love about Hayley – it’s fun and empowering, as well as unapologetically queer. Songs like this make me so incredibly proud to be a queer woman and grateful to have role models like Hayley to look up to. On top of this, I love the music video where she portrays a teenage version of herself dreaming of the day when she’ll be performing live with women throwing their bras at her – I think she can safely say she has achieved this goal.


and I love that she doesn’t give a f**k about what anyone thinks of her, particularly in regards to her sexuality and gender identity. This ’80s-sounding song is empowering, catchy and explicitly queer as it switches

) Although Taylor Swift’s seventh studio album Lover came out in 2019, I Think He Knows continued to be a favourite song of mine this year. I massively admire Taylor’s work ethic despite the adversity and blatant sexism she’s faced throughout her career, and although this song isn’t the most complex or meaningful on the album, listening to it always lifts my mood. It also reminds me of my partner, who I was lucky enough to have met this year; knowing them has massively improved my life and I’m very thankful for them, so listening to it always brings a smile to my face and reminds me that some good has come out of this year. ) Another 2019 song I’ve listened to constantly this year is You by Marina (formerly Marina and the Diamonds) – an artist I’ve loved for the past decade – from her latest album Love + Fear. Much like Carly, Marina has a large LGBTQ+ fanbase which she attributes to her campness and her music, which frequently explores feelings of being an outsider. And like Carly, I’ve seen Marina live multiple times – an absolutely incredible experience. I’m not sure what You means to Marina, but I interpret it as an exploration of the various conflicts we all have with ourselves. To me, the song shows the power we all have to break ourselves down but then the equally powerful strength we have to love and support ourselves. Marina’s ability to articulate the most complicated aspects of the human condition in such a beautiful way always astounds me and I think You is a perfect example of this.

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Hydes’ Hopes

Scene & Done It



Interesting times

Not quite a getaway

) Speaking of the 1960s, Bobby Kennedy said: “There’s a Chinese curse which says ‘may he live in interesting times’. Like it or not we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history.”

) So the other week I cranked the heating right up to the max. Then I dragged the big yucca from the lounge to the bathroom, put Greatest Club Anthems 2000 on shuffle, and got into a lukewarm bath with a jug of Sangria. Pretend really hard, and it’s almost Ibiza I reckoned. God, I need a holiday.

The same is true of today. Covid-19 has made life challenging in ways I couldn’t have imagined. In order to overcome some of those challenges I have found that we need to be creative in new and inventive ways.

We decided to make every Saturday night ‘date night’ and took it in turns to ‘take each other out’. The first couple of weeks the weather was nice so we put a gazebo up in the back yard. We played music to help set the scene – Thai music to go with a pad thai and Indian music to go with a curry. But then the weather got cold so we moved the gazebo and set up an ‘outside’ space inside.

I’m not asking much of you, 2020, but how about just a little break? Nothing fancy, no one expects a fortnight off from those sudden surprises that seem to jump from behind the next, well, next anything really. On a much too regular basis. No, we’ve all become accustomed to that fact, and we know our place, 2020. You’re in charge, that much is clear to even the most adamant Covid-denier by now. But is a few days too much to ask? It’s like that lady on the radio, when everyone had to leg it back before the quarantine deadline. “Was it worth it, would you say Madam, to go to Paris?” “Well,” she told the reporter, “for five hours not really, but it’s nice to get away.”

Over the weeks we became increasingly more inventive. I found a two-hour Youtube video of a view over a Tuscan lake. In the gazebo I set up the TV, put a fan on to mimic a breeze, found some restaurant noise and chill-out music, ordered pizza from Pizzaface, and created a Tuscan Pizzeria. We talked for hours, just like we were on holiday,

“The ski vacation almost worked, even though Jess and Tim from upstairs soon ran out of cotton wool balls to throw out the window”

Every week we treated each other to an evening ‘out’ – even dressing for the occasion. Using a webcam feed of the Brighton seafront, we had fish & chips looking out over the pier. We had a snow scene for a ski-lodge theme, and a PC on the floor showing a video of a roaring fire. A night at the aquarium using videos, screensavers, and a night light that had fish gently swimming round the room. We celebrated Christmas in July (complete with Christmas dinner), and a Mexican evening with a piñata full of chocolate. We spent an evening at the theatre, a movie night with hotdogs and popcorn, and a Burns Night in the Scottish highlands with haggis and whisky (in our kilts of course). Chris created a Dutch pancake house, a 1950s American diner, and a Chinese meal complete with new year’s fireworks. We had dinner in the International Space Station (where going round the Earth made me motion sick, so scratch that one), a night at an art museum, afternoon tea on the Love Boat, a Teddy Bear’s picnic at the Brighton Bear Weekend online event, an evening of Spanish tapas overlooking a gorgeous courtyard, and more besides.

Lockdowns, quarantines and cancellations, one just can’t know if it’s worth it to chance it these days, or whether you should even bother hunting for the passports in the admin drawer. So I thought alternatives. What else are we to do? The Mediterranean mini-break in the bathroom wasn’t a bad start, but I couldn’t stretch that out to a whole weekend – I got wrinkly granny skin after four hours (and you’re always worried it won’t go back to normal). The ski vacation almost worked, even though Jess and Tim from upstairs soon ran out of cotton wool balls to throw out the window, us sat on the patio in our tracksuits and Ray-Bans. To be honest it was the Jägermeister that pulled that one off more than anything. Then we tried watching David Attenborough’s Deep Ocean, wearing swimming shorts and snorkels, but the door bell went for a delivery, and that kind of spoiled the Maldives fantasy. Couldn’t really see through the goggles anyway. “Finest French cuisine ideas to make at home,” I thought, if that doesn’t make you feel like you’re dining ‘al fresco’ in Marseille then what will? Well, the thought was there, but it’s just not the same if you have to cook for yourself, and pretend to be your own ill-mannered French waiter.

I’ve seen relationships implode, or even explode, under the stresses of Covid-19. But then I’ve also seen relationships flourish and deepen. Chris and I found that making time for each other has made all the difference.

Some evenings worked really well. Others not so much. But we talked for hours and hours, felt like we were away somewhere special, and had the chance every week to do something special for each other. Even after 18 years together our relationship deepened and has been the rock that both of us have used as a touchstone during the Covid rollercoaster. My advice in the midst of all of this is be creative. Don’t be afraid to be silly, try something new, and spend time – real or virtual – with those you care about. You might be surprised at the difference it makes.

So, speaking of France, at the end of the day we did the only thing we could do, and stayed in our kitchen, crying into yet another glass of Merlot. At least all my friends are stranded too, and Facebook is eerily devoid of people with tans, holiday countdowns, or hammocks hung between palm trees. We’re, how does that tired old slogan go, ‘in this together’. A small relief, but just to be safe, I’m gonna hibernate for a while and come back out when it’s Easter.

Gscene 57



Email by 15th December to book an advert


Festive faves ) Now that the winter is upon us, you may think I’ve been sitting on my bottom, binge-watching The Vicar of Dibley and other such delights to be found on streaming TV. Well, I have, but that is beside the point. There is plenty to be getting on with up in the shed and on the plot. It’s a good time to wash out all your pots and have them ready for anything that sprouts early next year. Also, do you need to move anything plantwise? We have just moved all the strawberry plants. It is now a good time to think which crops you want to rotate, it’s always a good idea to keep your potatoes on the move – we had a particularly good crop of pink ones this year.




We have also planted some more broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, leeks and garlic in some of the gaps and are expecting a bumper crop of Jerusalem artichokes, which are ideal for lockdown soups etc if you get my drift (I would put in a ‘windy’ emoji here but I don’t think Word does emojis. The clue is in the title I suppose). I took Tina out in the camper van for a visit to Boxgrove Priory (she thought it was where The Boxgrove Garden came from but was a bit disappointed when I pointed out it was The Beechgrove Garden). Mind you she was even less pleased when she got kicked out of the village hall because the ‘facilities’ were not for the general public, don’t you know! She wreaked revenge in a nearby ditch. She was all for nipping over to Tangmere and commandeering a Spitfire but I took her home for a soothing cup of Darjeeling… anyway, I digress.


Christmas is almost upon us and plants can make a pleasing present for someone who has most things and maybe not a garden. Poinsettias (have you ever asked anyone to spell poinsettia? Go on, ask the person next to you) come in a variety of colours, red being the most popular, but I do like the yellowy-cream ones. Also cyclamen (another spelling bee favourite) come in reds, whites, pinks and mauves. Remember if you either give or receive a cyclamen you must water it from the bottom otherwise you will spoil the foliage. If you are really adventurous you could have a go at making a wreath. We have also just cut the last of the chrysanthemums, which have been rather fine this year even if I say so myself. Well I must draw to a close, my thanks to Donald (King Weed) for his weeding thoroughness and help throwing horse manure around the place, and Tina Thyme for photos and helping with the article. Have a peaceful Christmas and see you in 2021, Laurie x


Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of statements in this magazine we cannot accept responsibility for the views of contributors, errors, or ommisions, or for matters arising from clerical or printers errors, or an advertiser not completing a contract

Gscene 65

SERVICES DIRECTORY LGBTQ+ Services l Allsorts Youth Project Drop-in for LGBT or unsure young people under 26 Tues 5.30–8.30pm 01273 721211 or email info@

l Brighton & Hove Police Report all homophobic, biphobic or transphobic incidents to: 24/7 assistance call Police on 101 (emergencies 999) Report online at: LGBT team (not 24/7) email: • LGBT Officer PC James Breeds: Tel: 101 ext 558168

l Brighton & Hove LGBT Safety Forum Independent LGBT forum working within the communities to address and improve safety and access issues in Brighton & Hove. For more info: 01273 675445 or or

l Brighton & Hove LGBT Switchboard

l Mindout Independent, impartial services run by and for LGBTQ people with experience of mental health issues. 24 hr confidential answerphone: 01273 234839 or email info@ and out of hours online chat

l Navigate Social/peer support group for FTM, transmasculine & gender queer people, every 1st Wed 7-9pm & 3rd Sat of month 1-3pm at Space for Change, Windlesham Venue, BN1 3AH.

l Peer Action Regular low cost yoga, therapies, swimming, meditation & social groups for people with HIV. contact@peeraction. net or

l Rainbow Families Support group for lesbian and/or gay parents 07951 082013 or

l Rainbow Hub Information, contact, help and guidance to services for LGBT+ communities in Brighton, Hove and Sussex at Rainbow Hub drop in LGBT+ one-stop shop: 93 St James Street, BN2 1TP, 01273 675445 or visit

• LGBT Older People’s Project • LGBT Health Improvement and Engagement Project • LGBTQ Disabilities Project • Rainbow Café: support for LGBT+ people with Dementia • Volunteering opportunities 01273 234 009 Helpline hours: Wed & Thur, 7–9.30pm; trans-only webchat on Sun 3–5pm: call 01273 204 050 email webchat

Social Group welcome all in East & West Sussex Areas. Call/Text 07539 513171. More info: uk

l Brighton OneBodyOneFaith

l Victim Support

l Some People Social/support group for LGB or questioning aged 14-19, Tue 5.30-7.30pm, Hastings. Call/text Cathrine Connelly 0797 3255076 or email

l TAGS – The Arun Gay Society

Formerly The Gay Christian Movement. Contact: Nigel Nash

Practical, emotional support for victims of crime 08453 899 528

l Brighton Women’s Centre

l The Village MCC

Info, counselling, drop-in space, support groups 01273 698036 or visit

l Lesbian & Gay AA

Christian church serving the LGBTQ community. Sundays 6pm, Somerset Day Centre, Kemptown. More info: 07476 667353,

12-step self-help programme for alcohol addictions: Sun, 7.30pm, Chapel Royal, North St, Btn (side entrance). 01273 203 343 (general AA line)

HIV Prevention, Care & Treatment Services

l LGBTQ+ Cocaine Anonymous


Meeting every Tues 6.30-8pm, 6 Tilbury Pl, Brighton, BN2 0GY, CA isn’t allied with any outside organisation, and neither endorses or opposes any causes. Helpline 0800 6120225,

l Brighton & Hove CAB HIV Project

l LGBTQ+ NA Group Brighton-based LGBTQ+ (welcomes others) Narcotics Anonymous group every Tue 6.30–8pm, Millwood Centre, Nelson Row, Kingswood St. 0300 999 1212

l LGBT+ Meditation Group Meditation & discussion, every 2nd & 4th Thur, 5.30–7pm, Anahata Clinic, 119 Edward St, Brighton. 07789 861 367 or

l Lunch Positive

Sussex HIV & AIDS info service 01403 210202 or Money, benefits, employment, housing, info, advocacy. Appointments: Tue-Thur 9am-4pm, Wed 9am-12.30pm Brighton & Hove Citizens Advice Bureau, Brighton Town Hall. 01273 733390 ext 520 or

l Clinic M Free confidential testing & treatment for STIs including HIV, plus Hep A & B vaccinations. Claude Nicol Centre, Sussex County Hospital, on Weds from 5-8pm. 01273 664 721 or

l Lawson Unit Medical advice, treatment for HIV+, specialist clinics, diet & welfare advice, drug trials. 01273 664 722

Lunch club for people with HIV. Meet/make friends, find peer support in safe space. Every Fri, noon–2.30pm, Community Room, Dorset Gdns Methodist Church, Dorset Gdns, Brighton. Lunch £1.50. 07846 464 384 or

l Martin Fisher Foundation

l MCC Brighton

Pavilions Partnership. Info, advice, appointments & referrals 01273 731 900. Drop-in: Richmond House, Richmond Rd, Brighton, Mon-Wed & Fri 10am-4pm, Thur 10am-7pm, Sat 10am-1pm; 9 The Drive, Hove 01273 680714 Mon & Wed 10am-12pm & 1pm-3pm, Tue & Thu 10am-4pm, info &

Inclusive, affirming space where all are invited to come as they are to explore their spirituality without judgement. 01273 515572 or

HIV Self testing kits via digital vending machines available from: The Brighton Sauna, Prowler, Marlborough Pub and The Rainbow Hub.

l Substance Misuse Service

advice only (no assessments), Fri 10am-12pm & 1pm-3pm. • Gary Smith (LGBT* Support) 07884 476634 or email

l Sussex Beacon 24 hour nursing & medical care, day care 01273 694222 or

l Terrence Higgins Trust services For more info about these free services go to the THT office, 61 Ship St, Brighton, Mon–Fri, 10am–5pm 01273 764200 or • Venue Outreach: info on HIV, sexual health, personal safety, safer drug/alcohol use, free condoms/lubricant for men who have sex with men • The Bushes Outreach Service @ Dukes Mound: advice, support, info on HIV & sexual health, and free condoms & lube • Netreach (online/mobile app outreach in Brighton & Hove): info/advice on HIV/sexual health/local services. THT Brighton Outreach workers online on Grindr, Scruff, & Squirt • Condom Male: discreet, confidential service posts free condoms/lube/sexual health info to men who have sex with men without access to East Sussex commercial gay scene • Positive Voices: volunteers who go to organisations to talk about personal experiences of living with HIV • Fastest (HIV testing): walk-in, (no appointment) rapid HIV testing service open to MSM (Men who have sex with Men). Anyone from the African communities, male and female sex workers and anyone who identifies as Trans or non-binary. We now offer rapid 15 minutes results for HIV/Syphilis: Mon 10am-8pm, Tues-Fri 10am-5pm, Thurs 10am-8pm (STI testing available) • Sauna Fastest at The Brighton Sauna (HIV testing): walk-in, (no appointment) rapid HIV testing service for men who have sex with men, results in 20 minutes: Wed: 6–8pm (STI testing available) • Face2Face: confidential info & advice on sexual health & HIV for men who have sex with men, up to 6 one hour appointments • Specialist Training: wide range of courses for groups/ individuals, specific courses to suit needs • Counselling: from qualified counsellors for up to 12 sessions for people living with/affected by HIV • What Next? Thurs eve, 6 week peer support group work programme for newly diagnosed HIV+ gay men • HIV Support Services: info, support & practical advice for people living with/affected by HIV • HIV Welfare Rights Advice: Find out about benefits or benefit changes. Advice line: Tue–Thur 1:30- 2:30pm. 1-2-1 appts for advice & workshops on key benefits

l Terrence Higgins Eastbourne

• Web support & info on HIV, sexual health & local services via netreach and • Free condom postal service contact Grace Coughlan on 07584086590 or

l Sexual Health Worthing Free confidential tests & treatment for STIs inc HIVA; Hep vaccinations. Worthing-based 0845 111345645

National Helplines l National LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline at and 0800 999 5428 l Switchboard 0300 330 0630 l Positiveline (Eddie Surman Trust) Mon-Fri 11am-10pm, Sat & Sun 4-10pm 0800 1696806 l Mainliners 02075 825226 l National AIDS Helpline 08005 67123 l National Drugs Helpline 08007 76600 l THT AIDS Treatment phoneline 08459 470047 l THT direct 0845 1221200




Gscene Advertisers’ Map








) Clubs

11 Basement Club (below Legends) 31-34 Marine Parade, 01273 624462 7 Envy (above Charles St Tap) 8-9 Marine Parade, 01273 624091





























2 Amsterdam Bar & Kitchen 11-12 Marine Parade, 01273 688 826 6 Camelford Arms 30-31 Camelford St, 01273 622386 7 Charles Street Tap 8-9 Marine Parade, 01273 624091 23 Cup of Joe 28 St George’s Rd, 01273 698873 9 Giu & Su Café & Wine Bar 2 Church St, BN1 1UJ 11 Legends Bar 31-34 Marine Parade, 01273 624462 12 Marine Tavern 13 Broad St, 01273 681284 24 New Steine Bistro 12a New Steine, 01273 681546





) Food



















) Bars & pubs 14 Paris House 21 Western Road, 01273 724195 15 Queen’s Arms 7 George St, 01273 696873 16 Railway Club 4 Belmont, Dyke Rd, 01273 328682 17 Regency Tavern 32-34 Russell Sq, 01273 325 652 18 Three Jolly Butchers 59 North Rd, 01273 608571 19 Velvet Jacks 50 Norfolk Square, 07720 661290 20 Lé Village 2-3 High Street, 01273 681634 21 Zone  33 St James’s St, 01273 682249








10 4



19 30



1 Affinity Bar 129 St James’s St, 2 Amsterdam Bar & Kitchen 11-12 Marine Parade, 01273 688 826 3 Bar Broadway 10 Steine Street, 01273 609777 4 Bedford Tavern 30 Western Street, 01273 739495 5 All New Bulldog 31 St James St, 01273 696996 6 Camelford Arms 30-31 Camelford St, 01273 622386 7 Charles Street Tap 8-9 Marine Parade, 01273 624091 8 Fallen Angel 24 Grafton St, 07949590001 9 Giu & Su Café & Wine Bar 2 Church St, BN1 1UJ 10 Grosvenor Bar CH U 16 Western Street, 01273 438587 11RCLegends Bar H ST 31-34 Marine Parade, 01273 624462 12 Marine Tavern 13 Broad St, 01273 681284 13 Nautilus Lounge 129 St James’s St, 01273 624100


























14 Paris House 21 Western Road, 01273 724195 17 Regency Tavern 32-34 Russell Sq, 01273 325 652 18 Three Jolly Butchers  59 North Rd, 01273 608571 19 Velvet Jacks 50 Norfolk Square, 07720 661290 20 Lé Village 2-3 High Street, 01273 681634

26 Hilton Brighton Metropole 1 Kings Rd, 01273 775 432 11 Legends Hotel 31-34 Marine Parade, 01273 624462 24 New Steine Bistro 12a New Steine, 01273 681546 27 Queens Hotel 1/3 Kings Rd, 01273 321222

) Hotels

28 Barber Blacksheep 18 St Georges Rd, 01273 623408 29 Dental Health Spa 14–15 Queens Rd, 01273 710831 30 Velvet Tattoo 50 Norfolk Square, 07720 661290

) Health & Beauty

25 Gullivers Hotel 12a New Steine, 01273 695415

) Sexual Health











37 Engleharts 49 Vallance Hall, Hove St, 01273 204411



24 E




) Legal Services





34 Prowler 112 St James’ St, 01273 683680 35 Sussex Beacon Charity Shop 130 St James’s St, 01273 682992 36 Sussex Beacon Home Store 72-73 London Rd, 01273 680264


























33 Brighton Sauna 75 Grand Parade, 01273 689966

) Shops






) Saunas





35 1











31 Clinic M Claude Nicol Abbey Rd, 01273 664721 32 THT Brighton 61 Ship St, 01273 764200






) Community

38 Brighton Women’s Centre 72 High St, 01273 698036 39 Lunch Positive Dorset Gadens Methodist Church, Dorset Gardens, 07846 464384 40 Rainbow Hub 93 St James’s St, 01273 675445

Articles inside

The Ledward Centre, Brighton's first LGBTQ+ community centre, close to opening article cover image

The Ledward Centre, Brighton's first LGBTQ+ community centre, close to opening

page 3
LAURIE'S ALLOTMENT by Laurie Lavender article cover image

LAURIE'S ALLOTMENT by Laurie Lavender

page 57
SCENE & DONE IT by Michael Steinhage article cover image

SCENE & DONE IT by Michael Steinhage

page 56
HYDES' HOPES by Rev Michael Hydes article cover image

HYDES' HOPES by Rev Michael Hydes

page 56
RAE'S REFLECTIONS by Rachel Badham article cover image

RAE'S REFLECTIONS by Rachel Badham

page 55
STUFF & THINGS by Jon Taylor article cover image

STUFF & THINGS by Jon Taylor

page 54
GOLDEN HOUR by Billie Gold article cover image

GOLDEN HOUR by Billie Gold

page 54
CRAIG'S THOUGHTS by Craig Hanlon-Smith article cover image

CRAIG'S THOUGHTS by Craig Hanlon-Smith

page 53
GAY SOCRATES article cover image


page 52
WALL'S WORDS by Roger Wheeler article cover image

WALL'S WORDS by Roger Wheeler

page 52
Joining MindOut's peer support services article cover image

Joining MindOut's peer support services

page 51
TWISTED GILDED GHETTO by Eric Page article cover image


page 50
JAQ ON THE BOX with Jaq Bayles article cover image

JAQ ON THE BOX with Jaq Bayles

page 50
SHOPPING with Michael Hootman article cover image

SHOPPING with Michael Hootman

page 49
CHARITY SHOPPING article cover image


page 48
ALL THAT JAZZ by Simon Adams article cover image

ALL THAT JAZZ by Simon Adams

page 47
ART MATTERS by Enzo Marra article cover image

ART MATTERS by Enzo Marra

page 47


page 46
(A)sex(ual) education: the need for an ace-inclusive curriculum article cover image

(A)sex(ual) education: the need for an ace-inclusive curriculum

page 35
Ian Elmslie:Literary Life,  Cabaret & Lockdown article cover image

Ian Elmslie:Literary Life,  Cabaret & Lockdown

page 45
PAGE'S PAGES - Book Reviews by Eric Page article cover image

PAGE'S PAGES - Book Reviews by Eric Page

pages 42-43
Wear your mask with Pride! article cover image

Wear your mask with Pride!

page 38
Historical Holidays & Gay Getaways article cover image

Historical Holidays & Gay Getaways

pages 30-31
ARXX and answered article cover image

ARXX and answered

page 44
My Kinda Christmas article cover image

My Kinda Christmas

page 23
Rainbow Chorus sends message of solidarity to mark TDoR article cover image

Rainbow Chorus sends message of solidarity to mark TDoR

page 15
OBITUARY: Jan Morris: 02/10/1926-20/11/2020 article cover image

OBITUARY: Jan Morris: 02/10/1926-20/11/2020

page 15
TDoR marked in Brighton & Hove  article cover image

TDoR marked in Brighton & Hove

page 15
Sussex Police say domestic abuse still a priority during Covid-19 article cover image

Sussex Police say domestic abuse still a priority during Covid-19

page 13
Queer in Brighton LGBTQ+ History Club article cover image

Queer in Brighton LGBTQ+ History Club

page 12
THT launches HIV remembrance hub article cover image

THT launches HIV remembrance hub

page 12
Rainbow Chorus announce exciting Xmas plans article cover image

Rainbow Chorus announce exciting Xmas plans

page 12
Allsorts of Wellbeing podcast article cover image

Allsorts of Wellbeing podcast

page 12
New wall art with a punk twist on St James's Street article cover image

New wall art with a punk twist on St James's Street

page 12
Covert: a new literary magazine showcasing Black, Asian and ethnically diverse writers and artists article cover image

Covert: a new literary magazine showcasing Black, Asian and ethnically diverse writers and artists

page 12
English gov axes anti-bullying project article cover image

English gov axes anti-bullying project

page 11
Sam Thomas launches #SeeTheBiggerPicture petition article cover image

Sam Thomas launches #SeeTheBiggerPicture petition

page 10
Galop launches guide for LGBTQ+ survivors of domestic abuse article cover image

Galop launches guide for LGBTQ+ survivors of domestic abuse

page 10
LGBTQ+ bar owners to donate Xmas gifts to families article cover image

LGBTQ+ bar owners to donate Xmas gifts to families

page 10
OBITUARY: Ian Allsup-Burge: 21/06/1970 - 26/10/2020 article cover image

OBITUARY: Ian Allsup-Burge: 21/06/1970 - 26/10/2020

page 10
Brighton Bear merch for Brighton `Rainbow Fund article cover image

Brighton Bear merch for Brighton `Rainbow Fund

page 9
Last orders at much-loved LGBTQ+ bar article cover image

Last orders at much-loved LGBTQ+ bar

page 9
Older life care for LGBTQ+ gets national attention article cover image

Older life care for LGBTQ+ gets national attention

page 8
#DoTheTimeWarp for the Sussex Beacon! article cover image

#DoTheTimeWarp for the Sussex Beacon!

page 7
Accessing PrEP in Brighton & Hove article cover image

Accessing PrEP in Brighton & Hove

page 7
Marking WAD in Brighton & Hove article cover image

Marking WAD in Brighton & Hove

page 6
Creative Christina raises over £350 for Sussex Beacon article cover image

Creative Christina raises over £350 for Sussex Beacon

page 5
Keep Switchboard switched on! article cover image

Keep Switchboard switched on!

page 5
New bus carries tribute to James Ledward article cover image

New bus carries tribute to James Ledward

page 4
Early responses to LGBTQ+ Community Input Survey article cover image

Early responses to LGBTQ+ Community Input Survey

page 4
The Ledward Centre close to opening article cover image

The Ledward Centre close to opening

page 3
ARXX and answered article cover image

ARXX and answered

pages 44-59
A Matter of Identity article cover image

A Matter of Identity

pages 40-41
Leave It All Behind article cover image

Leave It All Behind

pages 24-27
Amazing Amazin article cover image

Amazing Amazin

page 39
Spice Up YOUR Life article cover image

Spice Up YOUR Life

pages 28-29
A Safer Haven? article cover image

A Safer Haven?

page 34
Meet the Team article cover image

Meet the Team

pages 18-21
Picture This article cover image

Picture This

page 17
Hello Sailor! article cover image

Hello Sailor!

pages 22-23
A Light in the Dark article cover image

A Light in the Dark

page 16
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